I love the movie Under the Tuscan Sun. I would say I watch it at least twice a month, mostly as background noise, but still, I know almost every line. In the opening scene of the movie, Sandra Oh’s character, Patty, comments, “Actually, if you knew Frances [Diane Lane’s character], you'd know these [brownies] are avoidance [of writing].”
Most of the time, I would rather spend my free time writing than anything else. Pounding on the keyboard is therapeutic. Each time I start with a blank sheet of paper, it’s like heading off on a literary hike. I can obsess over edits to the point that frozen pizza becomes a mainstay on our dinner menus. I actually pay for Pandora One because the allotted 40 hours you get with the free versions doesn’t come close to the hours I need it.
But then there are the times when I will do anything to avoid writing. I can’t exactly blame it on writer’s block, because when I finally run out of things to do on my avoidance list, I’m ready to return my WIP. So, in the interest of avoidance and the role it plays in the creative process, I thought I would share my go-to vices.
1. The Latest iPhone app: First, it was Angry Birds, then Frog Toss, Words with Friends, Hangin’ with Friends, 80 days (think Bejeweled with puzzles and global theme), and now it’s Prize Claw. Originally I thought I would only play these games when I was waiting in the doctor’s office or while I’m waiting in the pickup line at school. Ha. I tried to ban myself from this, but it didn’t work. However, there is timer on my iPhone as well… and I use it to tell myself that play time is over… GET BACK TO WORK.
2. Facebook: I have been known to be inspired by quizzes I’ve taken on this social networking site. The appearance of Cherubs in my first book and a reference to Amelia Earhart were both inspired by a quiz (and half a bottle of wine) and those parts turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself. And then there’s the not so helpful aspect of Facebook. Remember that girl in junior high who used to pick on you, but now, through the goodness of FB, you can spend too much time looking through her pics and analyzing every moment of her life through her status updates? No? Me either, but let’s suspend reality for a minute and pretend you did: Facebook gives you the perfect avenue to waste hours “reconnecting” with friends. And we can’t forget the apps they have! I’m willing to bet at least half of you have or had a Farmville farm at one point in your FB career. I have one. Of course, I also have a Steward (my friend Jessica) who hacks my account daily and tends to my flock since I’ve imposed a FB ban, which now limits me to updating my fan page (please feel free to “like” me: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Sarah-J-Schmitt/132681246744714), checking in on a few statuses as well as posting some so people know I’m alive. Sorting through pictures of people I haven’t seen in twenty years is strictly prohibited… unless it involves kids, dogs, or cats. Come on! Who can resist those pics?
3. Baking: Like Frances in Under the Tuscan Sun, I like to bake. I wish I liked to cook more, but unless the recipe comes out of Taste of Home, I’m helpless. There are times when I have several different types of cupcakes going at the same time, followed by cinnamon rolls and homemade doughnuts. It’s also not uncommon, when I am procrastinating in this way, to make a couple different types of cookies (not from scratch, mind you) and sit back with the munchkins and dip them in ice cold milk.
4. Go to the Gym: I hate the gym. I would love to profess that I am a reformed couch potato and now feel horrible when I don’t go to the gym, but I can’t. I don’t like to work out. Even when I was a student athlete, I hated work outs. It’s the fact that I HAVE to go that makes me crazy. Except when I’m in a slump. There are a couple reasons for this: First, when I spend all day sitting at my desk, every part of me aches the next day. Second, some of my best ideas come through the zen meditation I enter when listening to Lady Gaga on the treadmill. Third, I’m around people. Granted, I normally avoid eye contact, but as an extravert, that human connection can be grounding and revitalizing.
5. Cleaning: Ask anyone who knows me, when I’m cleaning, it’s a desperate cry for help. I’m not talking the type of cleaning that involves filling the dishwasher or washing machine. I’m talking about that move the furniture and clean the baseboards type of cleaning. Some people have that part of them that pushes them to keep a neat and orderly home, and I’ll admit, I wish I was one of them, but I’m not. I am who I am and that’s all that I am. When I hit this point, there is only one answer, and that brings us to my last vice.
6. Escape to coffee/movie/girls night out with my best gal pals. I belong to a book club called The Cacklin’ Bs… at first, I thought, yes, I can have a great discussion about books with women I don’t get to see all the time. But this book club has become something more. It has become a support network where I can vent about my insane neighbor, remember that my husband isn’t the only one to say stupid comments at the wrong time, and to laugh. Laughter is the best medicine, for the body and the soul. Trust me, after an evening with the CBs, I have been healed.
That’s it. My six top vices. My go-to avoidance mechanisms. And rather than looking at these activities as a distraction, I look at them as a way to refill my creative cup and get back to work! Whatever your writing process is, BE PASSIONATE in everything you do!