Today is my writing day. Don’t get me wrong, I write every day – blog posts, FB and emails, even sometimes something in development, like a new webinar. When I say “my” writing, I mean fiction.

Yesterday, however was all of the above, and I’m still engaged in those thoughts and conundrums. In order to write fiction, I have to (and here’s the theme…) SWITCH GEARS.

I find I’m still worried about doing the things I was doing yesterday. And since I’m not letting myself engage that work, which is top of mind, I’m stuck.

Mary Gordon – excellent novelist (photo by David Shankbone, CC use)

Mary Gordon, award-winning novelist, who won my undying love with her novel The Company of Women (1981), complained about not being able to switch gears from mothering to writing.

“I’m the one that remembers everything. I’m the one that knows what everybody’s shoe size is and who everybody’s friends are, and who you call to invite and what two kids you can’t have in the same room at the same time.”

“To clear my mind, I read and listen to music.  I sometimes need to do that for an hour or two to decompress.  That’s the big difference in my writing since children:  I used to be quite sparky and intelligent when I sat down at my desk, and now I have two hours of real stupidity.”

– Mary Gordon

She jokes, but she requires real time and effort to switch gears. And because she takes her work seriously (and the world takes her seriously) she dedicates that time. This brought me to an important question we all have to face when switching gears:

Can we work, without judging the progress we make?

I’ve never even tried that. Just work along – or sit and read, or run errands – for however long it takes us to switch gears,  and not judge ourselves? No praise, no scolding, no measuring or comparing. Can we let ourselves just be? It is the judgement – both positive and negative – that gets in the way of harnessing the actual mental progress.

We can lay waste to invisible progress, because we want tangible, measurable progress, that is judgeable. It is a construct that comes from the business world, where it’s necessary, because someone else is trying to see and measure your progress. It is valueless when you’re doing your own work, for yourself. It is worse than valueless, because it causes damage and loss of invisible progress.

There is another form of gear-switching that takes place as we write and work, too. We don’t just switch from our real worlds to our writing worlds, we must also switch mindsets and moods as we move through the creative process.

  • To clarify, we ask questions, gather information and decide on the challenges. Our mindset might be questioning, exhaustive, keen, buttoned up.
  • To get an idea, we stop, scratch our heads, play a little, let our minds roam. Our mindset might be humorous, playful, fun.
  • To develop our ideas, we edit, evaluate, select and perfect. Our mindset would be focused, critical, vigilant.
  • To implement, we benchmark, persist, consider context, keep things moving forward. Our mindset might be determined, hardworking, scanning, alert.

Each of those gear switches can hitch you up, too. Often, however, we think of all of that as writing – and don’t pay enough attention to what we might each need to switch gears between mindsets and moods to get a project done.

This kind of “gear-switching” is pretty well-researched in the scientific literature on creativity. I’m posting information about methods and tools to help you transition smoothly from one phase of creating to another, on a regular basis.

Try the tools! You can search for them by using the tools Category in the search box, and that will bring up posts in which I describe a creative tool and when and how to use it.

In the meantime, try to write and create without judging the progress. Focus more on the process and be aware of what you personally need, to get from point a to point b, in a not-so-straight or measurable line.