On Starting a New Book

My daughter, "working" on her latest creative endeavor: coloring.
My daughter, “working” on her latest creative endeavor: coloring.

I’ve spent the last week plus in a sort of ritual: getting my writing space just so, organizing my notes, preparing my brain for the huge task of writing a new book.

It’s funny—each time I get ready to write another book, I think I’ll be able to ease into it gracefully and efficiently. As if, one day, I will just sit down and flow words from my brain, through my fingers, which will type magic into my computer.

Ha. Yeah, right.

In the decade-plus I’ve been writing professionally, I’ve learned something important about creativity. It’s not something you can force; it’s not something you can tame. It is something you can encourage.

I encourage my creativity through daily practice. Writing around the same time every day, hitting a word count goal, letting my brain dump before I go back and rework what I’ve written.

But as I’ve become more mature in my writing, I’ve also learned to acknowledge something important: to be creative, I need space. Space, for me, means disconnecting from electronics, even leaving my designated creative area (my office), and often venturing into nature.

I used to think that productivity happens when your butt is in the chair. And it does—sort of. But your creative spirit can also be limited by your butt being in a chair. Yes, you have to do the work. But you also have to create space to connect to the work. Creatives can’t work endless hours dispassionately—or at least they shouldn’t. To be true to our craft, we must be there full-force, absolutely and tirelessly engaged in the act of creating.

I’ve learned, too, that stillness is a way to coax my brain into being creative. Lately, I’ve developed a sort of meditative practice leading into intense client projects like book writing or consulting. I value my work too much not to give it my best, to give it my most energized self. So, when my brain is abuzz with the various tasks of the day, and for the life of me I can’t get into the writing flow, I close my eyes and simply focus.

For one of my current projects, that means embodying my clients—at least internally—and envisioning my intended readers. The act of focusing on who I am representing through my ghostwriting and who we are impacting does wonders for my ability to create. For another project, it means thinking deeply about my client and considering the ways in which I can serve him. Sometimes in my consulting work, it means envisioning the future—creating a mental picture of where I want to lead my clients, so I can build backwards to help them get there.

But that’s after the rituals. When it comes to writing a book, I first need to create space so I can prepare my brain for the big task ahead.

Today, I started a new book project. And tomorrow, I will write again.

How about you? How do you get ready for a huge creative project?

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