Wednesday, October 31, 2012

When and Where

By an almost-too-good-to-be-true coincidence the "locale" of Support Your Local Sheriff!, the movie I wrote about on Monday, is a fictional town called Calendar, Colorado. The unfinished prison cell is a space that is situated in time.

Scholarly writing happens at a particular time in a particular place, and it needs your support in order to happen. You provide this support by marking off the space (in your home or in your office, or in the train on the way to work) in some symbolic manner (by doing something as simple as closing a door, for example) and by marking off the space in your calendar like any other appointment you might have. Show up on time in the right place and get to work.

The place you choose must have some minimum level of order. Writers differ about how neat they need their desks and offices to be in order to write; the important thing is that the place be one that you only have to show up at. Then you can begin. You don't want to show up on time and then spend fifteen minutes getting the space into shape for work. The start of the session is not when you turn on the computer; it's when you begin writing.

One last point about that movie. I must have seen it on TV when I was a kid. So I was a bit spooked to hear James Garner say "I've never turned down a cup of coffee in my life." That's almost exactly what I always say now when I'm offered one. From now on, it's going to be exactly what I say (at least when I say yes). For those of us who drink it, a cup of coffee is a kind of magical object. It has the power to distract us from the writing if we don't have one, and the power to focus our attention when we do. So part of supporting a writing session is making sure the coffee is made in advance.

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