Monday, July 5, 2010

Serenity or Chaos - What Works for You?

I'm back from a five day vacation at the cottage. Sun, sand, water, hammock and the slow, peaceful days that stretch ahead with nothing more pressing on my mind than what to have for lunch. Sounds like a perfect recipe forgetting a good chunk of my WIP written, right? After all, I had no day job to rush to, no appointments, no being pulled in seven different directions that is my life on a daily basis. Yup. Perfect recipe for writing.

Except, sometimes, recipes don't quite turn out the way you expect. Sure, I lay in the hammock, I stared into a beautiful blue sky and gazed at a peacful lake. The Kids were doing their swimming, kayaking, watching movies/reading thing. So then why did I come back with only a couple of chapters outlined instead of 10,000 words written?

I concluded (on the normally 2 hour drive home that turned into 3 1/2 because of the traffic!) that I write best when I'm surrounded by chaos. Maybe it's my lifelong habit of needing pressure to produce. When the crunch hits (mostly to do with time) is when the adrenaline rushes and when my brain clicks into overdrive. I also learned over the last few years to write during rush hour subway rides and buses, at noisy children's sporting events, in waiting rooms and cars in between appointments. I trained myself to tune out the outside world and tune into the inside one. So when I am faced with quiet and time - two things I'm not normally privy to - I shut down, not gear up. And maybe that's a good thing - for me anyway. Shutting down is necessary so that when I'm back in the crazy routine that takes up 90 per cent of my life, I can produce words when I need them. Maybe it's my way of staying sane in the insanity that is my life.

However, it does make me worry that when the craziness of my life slows down (when children leave, when I finally retire) will my words slow down too? Hmmm. Maybe I'll just have to keep riding the subway when I'm old and grey with no particular destination but surrounded by noise and crowds so that I can retreat into my inside world.

How about you? Do you need quiet, serene surroundings to produce or do you write best when life is crashing down around you?


  1. External quiet, with a healthy dose of internal pressure (like a deadline) is the combo that works best for me. It's difficult for me to tune out raucous activity around me, so I do need some serenity. But if my subconscious is whispering "no rush" softly in my ear, then I may mentally dawdle my way through a whole day of what should be productive writing time. Balance is the ticket with me. :)

  2. I've always worked best under pressure, myself. But, if you have that type of personality, I wouldn't worry about retirement or an empty nest. Chances are you will end up finding other ways to fill your life. It's like when I quit work to stay home with my kids. I was stir crazy for a while. Then I started volunteering. Finding ways to fill that void while still being a full time mom.

  3. Hi Linda: I wish I could be like you - however I always feel off balance!

    Hi Lisa: You're probably right. The days always seem to fill up with something, don't they? So much for Freedom 55!

  4. I work best in peace and quiet, but I can handle chaos pretty well, as long as nobody speaks directly to me. Then it takes a long time to get back in the groove.

  5. Hi Vonna! It sounds like you're pretty adaptable person. I've found that when someone is looking over my shoulder - even if I'm just writing my blog - it totally freezes me up. Can't write when someone is watching me.