There was a time when I would edit the writing of my friends and family for free. That was a time in my life when I had a surplus of time, energy, and almost no social life. Now, editing is a service that I offer to friends and strangers alike as a paid service. A paid service that I would like to turn into a semi-substantial portion of my income. Continue reading
Fans of the movie ”Office Space” will remember the line “I space out for about an hour” during Peter’s famous first meeting with The Bob’s. The art of spacing out – of allowing yourself to exist outside of time and thought, clear of frivolous thought – is difficult to learn and takes a long time to master. If you work somewhere like an office building where there is a potential for mind-deadening downtime and horrible bosses and coworkers, the art of spacing out can be the savior of your life, mind, and sanity.
But what happens when you work somewhere that frowns upon having books, puzzles, web surfing, or any sort of activity during down time that might be construed as “not working”? We certainly can’t blame the employer – when you’re at that desk, or phone, or computer, or whatever you might be at… they want to pay you to work, not to do leisurely activities! Downtime can be killer though, and if you work for 8 hours and maybe only do 2 hours of real work during that time, there are 6 hours where you are utterly miserable! No amount of what the company provides you can kill that downtime. When you’ve read your manual 100 times, reorganized your desk 1000 more, and gotten your WPM up to 110 on the company’s typing program … Let’s face it, you’re going to be bored.
If you enjoy writing, even just a little bit, then the art of spacing out might just lead you to the answer to your boredom! Studies* have shown that people who spend time looking busy by writing are less likely to be scrutinized by bosses or fellow employees during on-the-clock downtime. So how do we combine the brain-intensive activity of writing with the complete deactivation of the brain down to a sub-conscious level? The answer is causality: allowing a mind cleared of whimsy and acting solely on a sub-conscious level to be activated solely by inspiration.
The first part of this art – “the Zen of writing in the workplace” – is to learn to turn off conscious thought. It is difficult to shut down subconscious thought, but to do so allows one to enjoyably do even the unthinkable – like watching paint dry! By shutting down conscious thought, we leave the brain on auto pilot. It only thinks about those things directly affecting you and concerned with keeping you alive. Thoughts will appear like fireflies in your subconscious, and embrace them as such. This will allow you to manage your thoughts and come to peace in the present time. I call this “clearing your mind of whimsy” – and it is of vital importance to the Zen of writing in the workplace.
So! you have the space-out-and-go-blank zombie face mastered and can creep out coworkers and loved ones alike with your ability to turn yourself off. You can breeze through meetings with the brass, dinners with the in-laws, and even enjoy all-day marathons of “Big Trouble in Little China”. How do we turn this newfound superpower into a tool for writing? What is Sensei’s secret to an equivalent of a mental Clapper system?
There is no secret. There is no trick. But there is a method – and it’s your own personal method.
Some of the prolific (not necessarily great) writers of the last 50 years – Piers Anthony, Stephen King, Clive Cussler, James Patterson, John Grisham, Nora Roberts, Danielle Steele, and Mercedes Lackey come to mind – all have had a method of some kind. A process, a system, something that works for them – and it was all their own. They used it to pump out book after book after book, all of them with success. But not everyone can write in a high noise or crowded workplace. Ray Bradbury famously wrote that he moved his typewriter to his garage because his kids were bugging the hell out of him. JK Rowling loved the bustle of London coffee shops when she was initially writing Harry Potter. Somewhere between Rowling’s noise and Bradbury’s silence, you will find your acceptable noise level for writing. I personally prefer Bradbury’s complete silence, but the art of spacing out has allowed me to write effectively even in a call-center environment (which is where I wrote this article)!
Personally, I always keep a scratch pad handy. You never know when ideas will strike and you need to be ready for them. A local dollar store sells 500-count pads of 2″x2″ paper for $1 – that always helps to have around, along with a legal pad. Throughout the day, little ideas will flitter into my brain and I’ll write them down as haikus. They might not be anything pithy or publishable, but they amuse me and pass the time as I count syllables and try to wrack my internal thesaurus for synonymous mono-syllabic words. Haikus upon slips of green, purple, orange and blue litter the top drawer of my desk, and I have caught coworkers snooping about searching for the latest haiku to read.
Once you clear your mind of conscious thought, writing can truly become Zen. Allowing thoughts to come to you on their own terms, much like cats, can yield a sweet fruit (or a drawer full of work-related haikus). Sometimes it is a good idea to pick a thought that comes to you and write about it until you are completely exhausted and can’t write another word about the idea… then tuck it away and forget about what you wrote entirely. Let more ideas come, and let ink or lead flow on paper with the flow of ideas to the blank slate of your mind.
Levi Citrin is an up-and-coming novelist hailing from Detroit, Michigan.
I am often asked what advantage there is to writing and what my endgame is as a writer. I want to share how I approach some basic questions about my lifestyle. Continue reading
The winter belongs to us,
We who cuddle close for warmth
We who steal kisses in barren boughs
We who trill shrilly at the sunrise
Celebrating its golden warmth
Excitedly dancing on treetops.
So fly away, far south,
You aren’t welcome until spring.
The winter belongs to us,
We who hop happily in snowy streets
We who play hide-and-seek in frozen forests
We who spend our days cajoling the clouds
Our silhouettes on high wires,
Painted against white gray skies.
So do not come back,
We are happy here without you.
The winter belongs to us,
We who do not flee forsaking the cold
We who soar synchronically like waves
We who love this place much more than you
Warmth in our beating breasts
Keeping us safe from icy winds.
The winter is ours,
It belongs to the sparrows.