To choose art means to turn one’s back on the world, or at least on certain of its distractions.
It amazes me to look up from our finished manuscript of Loyalties, only to find that I haven’t written a single word here at Life’s Little Inspirations since August. My first instinct is to slap myself upside the head and ask, “Holy Cow! Where did the time go?!” But I don’t need to. I know exactly where each and every, highly focused, bleary-eyed, exhausting moment went. It was poured like blood from my veins into each and every word of the final version of that manuscript.
In August and September, our final set of test readers began to hand in their comments and critiques, both the good and the bad, and even in a few very honest cases, the ugly. That’s okay, we were prepared for it. For those of you dreaming of ever writing that first great novel, plan on parking your egos, your heartstrings, and your illusions at the door. If you have great readers and editors, they won’t be there to pump you full of sunshine- although some of that certainly will warm your spirit from time to time- they are there to make you better. And to do that, their job is to carve away every piece of fat, waste, unclear gobbily-gook and garbage that you wrote.
Your job is to say thank you, ask for more, and head back to the drawing board.
So the drawing board is where I have been. Although at Blue Sun, Deb and I call it The Cave. The Cave is where we hang the DO NOT DISTURB sign so we can do our genius work- as our coach, Christine Kane likes to call it- and concentrate without the distractions of the busy work of our day-to day-tasks. Of course, it helps that I have a partner. While I’m in the Cave, Deb is out manning the front desk. In a week or so, she will be in the Cave creating lay-out and design and focusing on the publishing aspect of bringing Loyalties to the public so we can reach our deadline, while I will man the front desk and take on the daunting task of marketing and shining the bright light of this book all over the world.
(Ahem…all help with that task will be sincerely and gushingly appreciated!)
The Magic of the Cave
Of course, for those of you who are very visual, there isn’t really a deep, dark, dank Batman Cave at Blue Sun Studios where we work. It’s only a figure of speech. In fact, my office is bright and sunny, with water fountains and inspirational music playing in the background and my dog Maggie under my feet. (OK- I do have the ongoing clutter battle to fight…but I am winning. Mostly.) The reason we call it The Cave is to remind us to let go of ALL distractions, close off the world, shut ourselves away and focus.
It isn’t easy. In fact, it’s pretty darn hard. But we have discovered a set of Cave Rules that helps to make Cave time much more successful. I thought, since my extended period of Cave time is fresh in my mind, that this might be a good time to share. Also, for all of you NaNo participants out there, Cave Time is a great resource for getting in those very critical writing hours needed for meeting your deadline.
Five Rules for Cave Success
Shut off Distractions
It’s called The Cave for a reason. That means no cell phone, no IM, no e-mail popping up that demands a response, no friends popping over unexpectedly for a surprise lunch. For some of us, that means our best Cave time might very well be 5:00 a.m. before the kids are out of bed and demanding Cocoa Puffs, but choose the times that mean the least amount of interruptions. The entire point is to be FOCUSED.
Set Great Expectations
Let family, friends and co-workers know about The Cave. Explain to them your need for a certain period of focused, uninterrupted genius work. Set firm, habitual, disciplined schedules and stick to them. Believe me, they get it. They even may respect you more for it. They probably wish they had it too. They just haven’t figured out how to implement it into their daily strategy. While you are explaining, remind them that when you come back out of the Cave, you will be able to give them your undivided attention because you won’t be distracted by nagging, stressful work hanging over your head. The Cave benefits everyone.
Spend Quality Non-Cave Time with Loved Ones
Especially when loved ones are first getting used to the idea of our new Cave habit, they may have a tendency to feel rejected or take our withdrawal from the social demands of our relationships personally. After all, for many of us, social media has become a way of life and an instant pudding knee-jerk reaction. We have a tendency to expect an immediate response to our comments or questions and can wonder if we have offended or are no longer liked if we are confronted with silence. Reminders and quality, focused after-cave interactions will go a long way to getting Cave support from those around you and relieve your inner Cave guilt.
Set Time Limits
The Timer is your Friend in The Cave. You don’t want to train them to leave you alone and then have them sending in Search & Rescue! Once you do get on a roll and in the Zone with your new found focus, you may be amazed how much work you can get done! In fact, time can be a very slippery and fluid thing in The Cave and before you know it, hours have slipped away without you moving from your spot, no food, no fluids and you suddenly have no idea why you are weak, dizzy, have a headache and it’s dark outside! When someone finally does interrupt you, you gaze at them as if they are a total stranger, not quite sure why their lips are moving, but you aren’t hearing a single word…( um…can you tell I speak from experience on this one?) Trust me, get used to setting a timer and taking planned breaks. Your body and your creativity will thank you.
Sharpen the Saw
Stephen Covey’s seventh habit is an absolute must here. The practice of taking the time to renew your own physical, spiritual and mental resources to keep yourself fully charged in order to do your very best focused work, can not be over emphasized. There is nothing worse than carving out Cave time, only to stare blankly at the computer screen or page because there isn’t enough fuel in your creative tank to produce. Taking care of your Muse and your Genius within, is a critical part of successful Cave time.
The Illusion of False Loves
There is a poem I keep close by to remind me that although we are bombarded with illusive distractions in our fast paced, media driven lives that steal away our creative energy, they are really nothing new. Artists and Creators have been dealing with them since the beginning of creation. So, to keep you inspired, and to cheer you along in our mutual quest for quality creativity, I share with you one of my favorite poems. Maybe you can hang it in your own Cave.
A Farewell to False Love
Farewell, false love, the oracle of lies,
A mortal foe and enemy to rest,
An envious boy, from whom all cares arise,
A bastard vile, a beast with rage possessed,
A way of error, a temple full of treason,
In all effects contrary unto reason.
A poisoned serpent covered all with flowers,
Mother of sighs, and murderer of repose,
A sea of sorrows whence are drawn such showers
As moisture lend to every grief that grows;
A school of guile, a net of deep deceit,
A gilded hook that holds a poisoned bait.
A fortress foiled, which reason did defend,
A siren song, a fever of the mind,
A maze wherein affection finds no end,
A raging cloud that runs before the wind,
A substance like the shadow of the sun,
A goal of grief for which the wisest run.
A quenchless fire, a nurse of trembling fear,
A path that leads to peril and mishap,
A true retreat of sorrow and despair,
An idle boy that sleeps in pleasure’s lap,
A deep mistrust of that which certain seems,
A hope of that which reason doubtful deems.
Sith then thy trains my younger years betrayed,
And for my faith ingratitude I find;
And sith repentance hath my wrongs betrayed,
Whose course was ever contrary to kind:
False love, desire, and beauty frail, adieu.
Dead is the root whence all these fancies grew.
Sir Walter Raleigh