Every Artist Has A Process. What’s Yours?

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Writing is an art. It’s also a tool, but there’s a great deal of beauty in language as well as utility. If writing is an artform, that means it takes creativity, perseverance, and a certain degree of talent to make great art.

I could write anything on a page and call it a poem and what makes a good poem is a subject for debate in creative writing classes and lectures across the world. It’s hardly something that can be quantified, but one thing that’s certain is that great poetry comes from a special place. In order to reach that special place we need a reliable process to do it, otherwise we’ll just be sitting on our asses all the time waiting for inspiration to strike. While that does happen sometimes, and it definitely helps, you can’t only write when you’re inspired because if you do, you probably won’t write very much or very often.

Many great artists throughout history have devised their own unique process designed to draw out the best in themselves. Here are some examples of a few creative people with weird routines:

Dr. Yoshiro Nakamatsu

Dr. Yoshiro Nakamatsu, or Sir Dr. NakaMats as he liked to be called, used to bring himself to the brink of death to come up with ideas for his inventions. He would submerge himself in a tank of water and just half a second before death he would conceive of a new invention, emerge, and write it down. He patented almost 3,300 inventions in his life including the floppy disk using this technique.

He also had a “calm room” which was a bathroom tiled with 24k gold, and free of any nails. He felt that the gold blocked radio and television signals which disrupted the creative process. The nails? For some reason he thought they disturbed the process as well.

John Steinbeck

Steinbeck lived before the computer, so he wrote all his novels on a typewriter. But, rough drafts were always written by hand and for that he preferred pencils. Steinbeck always kept exactly 12 sharpened pencils on his desk. He developed such bad calices from using them that his editor sent him round pencils to replace the hexagonal ones he always used.

David Lynch

The creator of Twin Peaks (one of the best TV shows of all time. Seriously. Check it out.) has a few tricks up his sleeve. After all, not just anyone can come up with the bizarre and murky dramas born out of his mind. Aside from consuming large quantities of sugar, his secret weapon is transcendental meditation; a practise he began in 1973 and maintains to this day.

My Process

As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently moved into a new apartment where I have a lot more space than I used to so I’m able to set up a much better workspace. Not only is the amount of space important, but there is also the fact that I can position my desk to be facing the window. Some people are fine facing the wall, but for me I have to be facing the window. I find that I’m 10 times more focused if I can gaze out the window every time I look up, and it’s especially nice when it rains. To me, nothing is more calming than watching rainfall.

I also have a desk with a lot of surface area, and this is another important thing since not only do I have a laptop, but I also have a number of notebooks and time to time I bring out my typewriter. A good chair is essential as well, since I need to feel comfortable. It’s hard to concentrate when my back hurts all the time. A standing desk is another thing I’ve considered because many people have had great success using one, but for now I’m not going to go down the road. Maybe it’ll work for you? (Fun fact: Hemingway wrote standing up).

When I really want to get down to writing some poetry, that’s when I move the laptop over to my left, pick up my typewriter from the side table where I keep and put it on the desk front and center, turn on some music, and pour a glass of scotch on the rocks.

Alcohol is a classic tool in the writer’s repertoire for inciting the muse, but user beware: too much can be bad. Writing when you’re completely drunk rarely works because alcohol affects your judgement and something that sounds great when you’re plastered could end up being total shit the next day when you look at it with sober (hungover?) eyes. Moderation, as with so many other things in life, is the key.

I didn’t come up with this process overnight. It took years of experimentation and messing around with what works and what doesn’t until I finally came upon it. It works for me, and now that I have the perfect setup I feel like I can be infinitely more productive than ever before.

What do you do to get creative? Do you have a process? Tell me about it the comments below!

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