Monday, April 19, 2010

Day 93: Observer Effect

It is so very interesting how often in life as soon as we observe a phenomenon, that phenomenon changes.  It is as if the act of observing actually changes that which is being observed (sometimes called the "observer effect"). 

The day after I observed that my excitement and motivation for writing my play had waned, I had the best writing day I can remember having.  Regardless of how others may respond to the material, my experience writing yesterday was the least frustrating and most rewarding I have had in a long time.  Today I feel satisfied, rested, and calmly excited (as opposed to nervously excited) to bring the fruits of my labor to class tonight.

What made the difference, you ask?

First of all, I set aside the entire day.  I woke up alone, went to bed alone, and didn't contact or speak to anyone other than my boyfriend all day.  From 10:30am to 11:30pm, my top priority was writing.  I did accomplish a few other tasks, like laundry and cooking myself a nice dinner, but I asked myself continually -- am I just doing this to procrastinate or because I need to move away from the computer and breathe a little? By doing so, I struck a good balance. 

I unplugged my wireless router.  I don't mean turned off my Airport on my computer, I mean I actually disconnected the ethernet cable from the box, so I couldn't wither away time while I was trying to come up with an idea by alt-tabbing over to Firefox. 

I asked for help.  There was an evening event I was possibly going to attend with my boyfriend, but when at 6pm I was not at all frustrated but rather still feeling the creative juices flowing, I told him I was going to take him at his word that it was ok for me to stay home and write.  Not only was he not upset, he was actually glad that I was taking time for myself, to be with myself and to nurture my creative self.  (This may be the top reason why he is the best-boyfriend-ever.)

I filtered less. Lines would pop into my head and I would just type them, even if they didn't fit where I was in the scene at the moment. I ended up essentially writing emotional high points or pivot points, and then filling in the connective tissue after to string them together. 

I meditated.  I think this may have been the most important thing I did.  While certain things are active meditations for me, like Reiki and yoga, I haven't really meditated for years -- I mean actually sat my butt on a pillow, legs crossed, before a lighted candle with a timer running.  I spent much of the 20 minutes thinking thoughts like "gee, I'm not very good at this anymore" and "I wonder how many minutes it's been now", but I continually turned back to watching myself breathe.  Just before the twenty minutes were up, I did find a bit of a deeper, quieter place, where it actually occurred to me to use my Reiki to help open up my creativity.  (If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can read a little about it on my very-outdated reiki website).

The ideas to set aside an entire day to write and to try meditating first were both inspired by my playwriting classmates.

It had become very clear to me last week that I was only skimming the surface of the intense emotions that the characters in my play are feeling.  The emotions are there, under the surface -- people have actually commented on how much is there, even though it is unstated -- but I didn't feel like enough was breaking through.  I knew I needed to dive deeper, but I wasn't sure how.  There are a number of reasons I think this may be the case - that I have trouble allowing my characters to really express the full depth of their emotion - which I want to expound upon in another blog post.  But one very simple reason was pointed out to me by one of my classmates when she asked me after class if I wrote every day. I said no, but sometimes I tried to do an hour a day. She said "it's hard to get deep in an hour".   Hence, the full day to write.

With another classmate, I had been discussing a scene he had written that was incredibly emotionally powerful.  I asked him how he managed to do that.  He said it was very hard to write, to go that deep -- that he would end up curled up in a ball on the floor from the depth of the character's pain he felt.   One of the ways he was able to get that deep was by meditating.  While I didn't end up in a ball on the floor, I did find myself crying on at least two occasions.  I felt like my filter was down, that the emotions were bubbling up to the surface in a way they don't often do.

So I've learned some important lessons this week about my relationship to my writing.  Like all long-term relationships, it will not always be roses and happiness and excitement, but there are tools you can use to help you get back to that place.  I found a few new tools yesterday.  I'm not naive enough to expect that if I did exactly those things again I would be guaranteed to have another day as satisfying as yesterday. But certainly I will try.
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