I came across "Minimalism" over a year ago, maybe more. I've never been a hoarder or clutter-y type of person, so perhaps this was why the whole lifestyle approach appealed to me, but I've been purging and reducing STUFF in my life. This is a different process for everyone but you basically figure out what stuff makes your life better and get rid of the rest. Unrelated/it's all related, I read an article about a woman who worked for a big ad agency in New York. Her position was as a creator but she found that when she decided to wear the same "uniform" every day for work, her creativity spiked. When she wasn't worrying about what she was going to wear, worrying about how what she'd chosen was making her look/feel like, she was suddenly more inspired to create good content in her job. It sounds ridiculously simplistic, I know. Except that it works.
I kid you not. I've written a couple of blog posts about my now 18 month sustained spurt of writing creativity but essentially, I have not experienced "writer's block" in the last year and a half and I really think it's because of minimalism. Every time I sit down to write, the pen doesn't stop until I run out of time. This is not braggadocio--I still have to plot, write timelines, rethink characters, research, edit, rewrite, throw stuff out. But the impetus is there and here's why: I am constantly thinking of my work. Ok, not CONSTANTLY, but a lot. I still have a day job, I have two kids, two dogs, too many other creative interests. But I've stopped worrying about what I wear. Even as I write this is sounds silly, but sometimes silly shit works.
I got rid of every piece of clothing that didn't make me feel fabulous. Yes, I repeat the fabulous outfits a lot. But guess what, no one cares! That's because they don't notice! They're too busy worrying if the blouse or suit they're wearing makes them look (fill in the blank). I mean, honestly, can you remember what YOU wore yesterday, much less six days ago? So in the shower instead of mentally trying to put together an outfit, I think about what I need to write next. My biggest decision is "am I in the mood for a skirt or pants?" or "is it cold today and should I layer accordingly?"
I still have "stuff" in my house that I could/should/would get rid of. (I live with three non-minimalists. They are not hoarders and actually live fairly minimally, but it's just not their thing to constantly be looking for things to get rid of.) But, having less stuff means less picking up/cleaning. Seriously. Less cleaning=more time.
This is a lifestyle switch, I will grant you, and the effects are cumulative, but so worth it. Here's some other stuff I've either given up or am working on getting rid of:
If you were to drop by my house unannounced, I am fairly certain you would not say, "Oh Michelle must be a minimalist!" I am still in this process of cultivating a meaningful life and releasing the bits that are not meaningful, but I gotta say, the benefits are pretty hard to argue with!
I have set a goal for myself of writing two books a year. This after taking about a year to write "The Lady's Secret" (which will be published in a few months, two years to write "Lord Worthing's Wallflower," and probably just as long for "The Lady Ordinary."
So what makes me think I can crank out a book in six months? Two things, really. First, I did the math and if I write just four pages a day, I should be able to write an 80,000 word book in just over four months, then edit, give it a rest, come back and edit again with some editors doing the same. Four pages a day seems easy enough, right? (Oh, and keep in mind, this is just handwritten pages which is really only like three typed pages.)
Here's the thing, though. It's really not about the pages, its about the consistency. Making yourself write every day (and to be honest, though I am a very goal-oriented person, I don't check all that often to count how many pages I actually wrote on a given day) sets your brain up for success. I know an author who wrote an immense book only on Fridays at her favorite coffee shop. Some writers only write on weekends. For my brain, I find I forget too much, lose track of too many ideas I had, and frankly, find easy excuses to avoid the occasional writing appointment.
But when I am consistently writing, my head stays in the game and I find I am constantly thinking of my characters and the plot and what's going to happen next. In fact, I don't just write once a day, but several times a day. One of those times might be simply entering my handwritten pages into the computer, but that serves as a basic first edit and reminds me of details I might otherwise forget. Sometimes I only have time for a paragraph as I wait for an appointment or eat my lunch at the day job. Doesn't matter. What does matter is the productive effect it has on my brain.
Don't get me wrong: writing can still be a bear and I am approaching a large section of my current book that is only loosely blocked out and I may have quite a bit of staring off into space in the next few weeks, but this new writing "technique" experiment has thus far proven quite successful.
I have no idea if JK Rowling really said this, but I intend to find out. No, wait. Not find out if she said it, find out if I will find bliss in a cafe with a notebook.
To be honest, I already know the magic combination of writing and cafes. I've spoken to several other writers and the consensus seems to be that places like coffee houses spark intense creativity that cannot be replicated in a home office or in a stolen block of time at your day job desk. Why is that?
I don't think it's the coffee. I can only handle one of those super strong caffeinated concoctions (and seriously, do you know how many books I have to sell in order to buy one? Six dollar coffee...pfft).
Instead, I think it's the removal from our comfort zone in which we have so many distractions. Yes, there is generally free wifi at said cafes, but that seems to be a minor siren call. It's the laundry, the craft project, the partner who wants to go see a movie--all the little things that are necessary and even enjoyable, but are so easy to place in importance above actually putting derrier in chair and writing.
Doesn't matter what music is playing, how many loud conversations there are around you, or what fabulous smells are emanating from the accompanying bakery, in a coffee shop, I am able to tune out everything else and crank out pages.
I leave in less than a week for Italy and Spain and for once in my overplanned life, I have not planned every day's activities. In fact, my only plan is to spend some time in little coffee houses or cafes or wine bars and write, write, write! I will keep you appraised if that happens!
Great, all I need is one more reason to procrastinate! As if Instagram wasn't enough...