Kitchen Timer

I’ve just finished reading Lauren Graham’s aptly-titled Talking As Fast As I Can, which was an utter delight and contained something I did not expect: writing advice.

I had somewhat vaguely been made aware of the existence of Someday, Someday Maybe and thought it to be a memoir, and for some reason never pushed myself to pick it up. For context, it came out during a time when I was mostly reading eBooks, and not especially going to great lengths to get new ones; and even though Gilmore Girls has always been a part of my life, it wasn’t receiving the renewed attention that the revival provided. Still, I knew Lauren Graham had written a memoir or autobiography, but weren’t those always ghostwritten anyhow?

My point being, I went to Talking As Fast As I Can to get to know the person behind Lorelai Gilmore a bit better, and I found more than I expected.

Her best bit of advice comes in the chapter entitled Kitchen Timer. I took it as I take all writing advice: this worked for me, it may work for you, but it is hardly the only way to go about putting words on a page. This way, I give myself permission to tweak things a bit, to try and fail and revise before I find a way to successfully make this into some sort of rhythm. So here goes.

I’ve dedicated the next hour to writing. (I actually forgot to set the timer until just before the previous paragraph, oops.) Before I sat down, I cleared my desk of the most useless and distracting things: now there’s nothing but a burning candle, a beverage, my cell phone (turned face-down and on Do Not Disturb), and my personal journal. I am trying to ignore the dust and the urge to reach for the Swiffer hanging on the corkboard: cleaning is such a great accomplice to procrastination. How can I write when my apartment is absolutely filthy?

No, for this next hour, I am writing. Or I am staring at the blinking cursor. I am certainly not getting up to vacuum, I am not fact-checking (though I did check to see if I was blogging when Someday, Someday Maybe came out), and I am not going out for food. If I get stuck here, I can switch to my journal, or I can open Scrivener to work on a novel.

The journal bit struck me as incredibly brilliant. I have often felt guilty about updating my personal journal when my creative writing was lying ignored, but never forgotten. As if text on a screen would stare at me broodily while I scribbled my feelings in a notebook. It’s absurd. My journal is my emotional homework, it is an indispensable tool when I can’t figure out how I’m feeling, why I’m feeling that way, what would make me feel better. The creative stuff is work, and as important as work is, my mental health takes priority.

On more sensible days, I’ve been able to think, “Even if I didn’t write creatively today, I wrote something. I did a good thing.” However, it never occurred to me that I could set my journal beside my keyboard and have both forms of writing be part of a session. It makes sense, I enjoy writing, I feel things while I’m doing it, I have feelings about what I’ve written, as I’m writing it. My personal journal houses many of my feelings. Come to think of it, this could well be an entry in that journal. Maybe I’ll end up keeping it to myself, but I don’t have to decide that just yet.

I know from prior experience that I am happiest when I am actively working to create something, and that spurs me to want to document that experience, and record the emotions I feel as I go through it. It reminds me of something I discussed in therapy, about how getting going with one thing can lead to me doing other things, because completing these tasks makes me happy and makes me want to do more things to continue feeling that way. By overcoming the initial friction of starting one small task, I’ve gotten to a state where my momentum can carry me through other tasks.

I’m about fifteen minutes into my first hour, and I haven’t decided if checking the clock is against the rules. I am over 700 words into this post/entry, and that’s more than I’ve done in a long while. That feels great.

I have a good feeling about this kitchen timer thing, and I expect to post more about it as I go through. More of my deviations this time around: I have read, opening the book to check on what the rules are. I am listening to music with lyrics. I have not disable the Wi-Fi on my computer, though I have managed to ignore my phone. I haven’t used the Internet for any communication, though I think I will post this, finally. And then I’ll go radio silent until my hour is up.

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