Hercule Poirot Never Shoveled Snow
I spent my morning shoveling wet heavy snow and thinking of Agatha Christie. I remembered reading she was born in Torquay. Then I wondered what I expected to find looking out a hotel window in Torquay; herds of buffalo grazing majestically across the plain, perhaps? Then I thought I shouldn’t spend my shoveling time quoting Faulty Towers, I should heed Mrs. Christie’s advice and plan my article for Write Anything.
How exactly did Agatha Christie lead me to think about writing while shoveling snow? A long time ago she said this:
“The best time to plan a novel is while you’re doing the dishes.”
I know, I know, I sound like a hack–suggesting something so blatantly obvious but let me explain where I’m coming from. You ever see a horror movie where the lead character looks in a mirror and their reflection suddenly moves of its own accord? That’s kind of how I feel every time I find myself with some spare time. More often than not, I find my reflection playing a stupid game on the world’s most popular social network when what the real me wants is to write, or edit what I wrote the day before.
I’ve only very recently come to understand that I’ve purposefully, albeit unwittingly, organized my life in such a way that I don’t need to make decisions on what to do with my time. I have a full time day job. I’ve recently bought a house in dire need of restoration and I’m salvaging another house by demolishing it bit by bit. I also have a family and, as selfish as it may seem, I enjoy sleep on a nightly basis.
See, I’ve filled my days with obligations which need to be met. This way I’m not burdened by choices on how to occupy my time or any accompanying guilt. I’ve made it okay to take a small computer break after spending hours working. I can justify it as “mental health” time. I mean a guy’s got to unwind sometime right? Haven’t I earned a few minutes to play a video game?
It’s cliché, but the first step in changing is admitting you need to change. I can honestly say I didn’t realize what I was doing when I stacked my life with so many projects. Now I know and since my ultimate goal is to write I need to make it okay to make a choice to write. One of the comments in my introductory post reads:
“Strangely enough, it’s when I have the most time that I find it hardest to motivate myself…”
Believe me brother, I know what you mean. What’s needed is momentum and that’s where Mrs. Christie’s brilliant observation comes in to play.
I drive a lot for my job. I usually listen to satellite radio or plug in my iPod and listen to audio books. It’s a great way to pass the time. But that’s no longer what I want to be doing. Lately I’ve been shutting off the radio for an hour or so and using the voice recording feature of my iPod to plan out short stories and work on plotting my novel. What I’ve discovered is amazing. Thinking and talking about my stories gets me excited about them which makes me want to write as soon as I have time.
Basically what I’m doing is building momentum. I’m getting my mind focused on my story telling. I’m writing without putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be. I’ve made a choice to begin. The choice to write comes easier once I have momentum on my side. I wasn’t expecting to shovel snow this morning but I did and in so doing planned out this article and figured out how two of my characters are going to meet.
So there’s tip number one, inspired by one of the best crime authors ever. Don’t let your brain cells die when forced to perform menial tasks. Build writing momentum instead, then get those dish-pan hands busy writing.