Before I had writing, theater was my creative outlet. Today’s thought comes from those days, they seem long ago now, when I used to be an actress. Here’s what I learned: when you’re in a show, especially when you’re in rehearsal (which is the creative period for an actor–you’re creating a character while you run your scenes with the other actors), it’s really important that you leave your problems outside of the rehearsal room.
I recommend having a room especially dedicated to writing—a room where you do nothing else but write. I understand that many of us don’t have this; I only got mine in the past year and that was by a huge stroke of fortune. I might not always have this space, either. For those of without a room to spare, I recommend having some sort of writing space. If you write at a coffee shop or a library, leave your problems at the entrance. If you write on your porch, leave your problems inside the house. If you write on your couch, leave your problems on the other side of the room before you sit down. Decide that you are putting your problems aside as you start to write.
Problems might include bills you forgot to pay, or a fight you had with your sibling, or whether or not you should call that dude back, or the fact that your dog needs a walk. In your writing space, you’re going to need to concentrate on the character you’re creating. You’re going to need to take on the mind of your character. This is fantastic if you’re like me, a bit of an escapist, and you like to escape from your problems for a while. Writing is the time to do it. (Especially when your protagonist is an escape artist, like my protagonist is an escape artist–ha!)
When I go into the extra bedroom I’ve dedicated as my writing room (the office), I try to imagine that when I go into that space, I have a different identity. I’m still Nora, but I’m Nora the Writer. Nora the Writer doesn’t care about bills or other people who she’s not writing about while she’s working on her fiction.
Sounds kind of harsh? Well, my friend, writing does require a certain degree of ruthlessness. Even so, you might consider taking care of your problems before you go into your writing space, that way you won’t need to think about how you owe so and so an apology while you’re trying to write a scene that has nothing to do with so and so.
Now, you may decide to tackle a specific problem with your writing—you might work something out in an essay or a poem. Cool. That’s not really what I’m talking about. I’m talking about leaving behind anything in your mind unrelated to your writing. Pay your bills. Answer your emails. Walk the dog. Call so and so back before you go into your writing space. That, or commit to dealing with it later—decide on a specific time when you will stop writing and deal with that stuff. Deal with that stuff outside of your writing space.