Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Squirrel and Zombies

by Clare O'Donohue

Q: Do you pull down your shades and shut out the world when you write? Or are you motivated by a city view? A view of nature? What is the ideal landscape for your creativity?

I don't have a dedicated office space in my house (though a girl can dream). I have a kitchen table, and I have living room couch. I have a nearby Starbucks. I have whatever hotel I'm in because my job keeps me on the road. But I've found that the writing mojo isn't so much based on what I'm looking at as what mood I'm in.

I have two writing personalities. "Squirrel" appears faithfully every time I sit down to write. Anyone who has seen the movie "Up" knows what I'm talking about. In the movie the dog gets easily distracted by anything resembling a squirrel, running off mid-sentence sometimes. In real life it's me who gets distracted by anything resembling... anything. 

I fidget, spend a lot of time reading the articles on, get up for my fourth cup of tea in an hour, realize I need to return an email, and remember that I haven't cleaned the refrigerator in a while. I don't mind a little squirrel in my life, it's when he overstays his welcome - wasting whole days - that I really get annoyed.

The second personality comes later, when I've found the words again. I start writing and writing and forget the world, the internet, and household chores. My half finished cup of tea gets cold on the desk. When I'm really in a book, the world outside could turn into a scene from The Walking Dead. Zombies could roam by my window, break into my house, take a chunk out of my leg, and I'd keep typing. "Just let me finish this chapter," I'd say to the undead creature making me his lunch, "and then I'll go zombie-ing with you." 

It doesn't matter to me whether I'm hidden away in an undecorated room, or sitting on the floor in a crowded, flight-delayed airport gate. If I'm in zombie-mode, the only view I care about is the one on my laptop. 


I have found that it's easier for me to get into zombie-mode when I write in the same place every day. Maybe my squirrel personality is bored by the same-old scenery so I get down to business sooner, or maybe my brain just knows this is where the writing happens. I find it's easier when I don't have music playing, so that goes off. I don't close the blinds because scenery is not a distraction, but I do avoid the internet because it's not just a distraction it's a time-suck. 

So when I find I'm spending too much time in squirrel mode, I force the routine of being in the same place, at the same time, in relative quiet, until I'm so far zombie that I don't care. Two or three good zombie days and I can venture back out into the distracting world. I've not just written a fair amount, but I'm filled with ideas for the next chapter or two - something that can keep me writing just in case squirrel pops up again.


Meredith Cole said...

I've started to realize that I can try to set everything up so it's perfect for me to write, but it doesn't really matter if I'm not in the right frame of mind (or, as you put it, squirrel mode). Maybe we all just have to be squirrels for awhile (as part of our creative process) in order to be zombies and get the book done?

Susan C Shea said...

Love the image of you bargaining for time with a zombie! For me, Facebook IS the zombie and the squirrel and I am trying to wean myself off the darting back and forth to see who's posted what cute animal videos since I last looked. Mush for brains...

Unknown said...

Just as I got over my FB addiction, I found lumosity, and now "stuff you should know"

But I try for one part squirrel, 3 parts zombie.