Becoming a full-time writer and publisher means developing a whole new way of working, and different routines – ones specifically designed to help me reach my creative goals. Over the years I’ve learned (the hard way) that my somewhat scatty creative brain works much better when fed with just the right combination of structure and distraction.
Therefore, as I explore new ways of working in the creative mindset, I’m consciously seeking balance: creating space for ‘head-down’ writing time; time to connect with family, friends, nature and fellow creatives; physical work and projects; and thinking time – hopefully not always in the middle of the night!
My best ‘creative synthesis’ time tends to be in the morning – that is when I do my best writing, when I’m most able to wrangle the mess inside my head into sequenced thought and written word. After lunch, unless I’m caught up in a creative flow, I generally shift into a more business-like mode. This is my time to deal with emails, tackle the next technological tricks and try to knock some things off the ‘things to do’ – currently the impending launch of Taelstone. By 3pm, my head is usually spinning – therefore, I’ve set an alarm to ring at this time, as a reminder to shift modes again. I only realised yesterday how hilarious that is — after years of teaching, I’ve actually chosen to have a bell ringing at 3pm! I’m still pondering whether I should adjust the time – or whether it can remain as a nod to a past life…
Anyway, at 3pm, on weekdays, I swap my scruffy pink Ugg boots for trainers, and head to the cross-trainer for some much needed exercise. More often than not, I’ll use the time to listen to podcasts about writing and publishing, usually choosing something from The Alliance of Independent Authors or The Creative Penn – both of which are proving fabulous guides on my journey into the wonderful world of indie authorship. However, some days are mulling days, and on those days I gaze out of the window while I run, letting my mind flit with the birds. Sometimes that tricky plot point I’ve been stuck on comes unstuck, new characters get born, odd pieces of dialogue come to life, or I get fresh ideas for a new part of my world – or even, alarmingly, whole new series of work.
This week, while running and listening and gazing, I had an epiphany. My new three o’clock routine could become even better by the addition of more tui. These native birds, (which now remind me so much of my message-bearing swifts in Taelstone) are often drawn into this part of the garden by nectar bearing plants, especially the kowhai tree. Since it’s winter and the kowhai isn’t flowering, I decided it was time to make a bird feeder. This is a recycling project I’ve been considering for years, usually around July, fuelled by inspirational pictures on the Internet. Now was the time, I said to myself – before another winter gets away! So, with newfound determination, I dedicated an hour or so to gathering useful items. I soon had an assorted pile comprising, amongst other things, empty gin bottles, candlesticks, electrical wire, pliers, yoghurt containers, jars, a bamboo steamer, and an old toilet brush holder – all confirming that we seriously need a good throw-out. After a little more time spent contemplating the pile, adding and subtracting junk, wiring stuff together, and generally making a mess, the feeder was duly designed, built and installed. The result, which you can see in the photograph, is very much a first draft — terribly makeshift, and decidedly wonky — but it’s in the tree, and it’s working! To my delight, the tui are taking turns to come down to drink, while their mates busy themselves with duels and duets in the tree above. Of course the minute I grab anything that looks remotely like a camera, they all take off and sit mocking me from the high branches. Fortunately my daughter managed to capture their antics last year. Thanks for the great shot Nikki! They are truly adorable birds – comic and elegant all at the same time. I just love the delightful distractions that they contribute to my new three o’clock routine.