ADD, Word Count & Why Dead Bodies are Good for the Living
Today, I want to talk about something that is vital to success. REST. In Western society, we have this warped sense that we need to be productive 24/7. In fact, one of the biggest challenges I face as the Social Media Jedi is that writers believe that, if they are having fun on social media, then they must be doing it incorrectly. They mistakenly believe that all that time chatting about life, hobbies and family is somehow not as good as “marketing” their book and blitzing out non-stop promotion, yet nothing could be farther from the truth.
Contrary to what one might think, that “fun time” on social media will actually create the most resilient parts of our platform—relationships. When people connect with us emotionally, they bond and they become part of our “tribe.” These more primal instincts are what will create long-lasting love, loyalty and passion for our brand.
But writers believe if it is fun, then it mustn’t be work.
As a craft teacher, I run into the same issue in a slightly different form. I can tell in two pages if a writer reads a lot of fiction. It is simply shocking how many people want to write a book, but then they believe that reading fiction (or watching movies) is a waste of time. Everything becomes about pounding out more word count and the quality of the stories suffers.
I run into many writers who are so fried and burned out working on their novel that they can’t remember the last time they had a creative thought. Yet, when I suggest resting, reading a book or watching a movie, I might as well have handed them a crack pipe.
What? READ? Who has TIME?
I must confess that I suffer from the same problem. I work and work and work until I am ready to drop when the best thing I could do for my creativity and productivity is to STOP. I believe a lot of this goes back to my childhood, and is also a product of Western thought and culture.
History and Some Armchair Shrink Time
If you study the Industrial Revolution, you will see that the formation of public schools went hand in hand with industrialization. Schools were charged with creating a literate population, sure. But one of the main reasons so many philanthropists like Vanderbilt, Carnegie and Rockefeller supported schools was that schools were there to train the workforce of the future.
Schools teach us to sit still hours at a time, take instructions, and not to question authority. We learn early on that creativity is punished and conformity is rewarded. I was constantly in trouble in school because I never could work linearly. Sitting still? Fuggetaboutit.
They were constantly claiming that I had a hard time focu—OOH SQUIRREL!!!
Where was I?
I remember one time the teacher assigned a complicated maze. I started from the end and worked to the beginning, solving the maze without hitting any dead ends. She gave me an F. Why? The goal of the maze was to solve the maze, right? Why did she care HOW I got the answer so long as I did it myself and didn’t cheat?
But she did care. Yeah, Mrs. Foster kinda hated me. I spent most of my third grade year sitting in the hall. Fun times :D.
I was constantly in trouble for how I looked at life, that I didn’t do it like everyone else and so every report card was marked with: DOESN’T USE TIME WISELY.
Of course, looking back, I was a creative personality, with probably a touch of ADD. We live in a world that punishes those of us who don’t do it the way the manual states, and this can really affect our relationship with time. Creative people, when we walk barefoot in grass or watch cartoons or look at pictures on Pinterest, we ARE working. We can’t help it. We are always creating, but we live in a world that has told us that, because our “work” can’t be measured with “metrics” (I.e. word count) then it must be goofing off.
It isn’t. Learn to ignore those voices.
Back to the dead bodies. Kristen, what is with you? More zombie stuff?
Those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter know that I regularly do Bikram yoga, which is 90 minutes and 26 postures in a room that is around 110-112 degrees. It is fabulous for detox, for the joints and the back, and the heat gives an amazing cardio workout and helps prevent injury because warm muscles are pliable muscles.
Anyway, there is a pose called savasana, or Dead Body Pose (or Corpse Pose). When I first started doing Bikram yoga, my biggest challenge wasn’t the poses or even the heat. It was sitting still (and shutting up for 90 minutes, but that is another blog). Seriously, I could not sit still.
I felt too guilty.
I ran through my grocery list. I thought about plot points. I went over research. But just being still and relaxing was making me twitch. The second half of the class was really tough, namely because every pose had a 20 second savasana after it. Pose, then dead body, pose, then dead body. You got it.
Please, let me at least take my iPhone in here. Then I can play Angry Birds and improve my eye hand coordination. SOMETHING!
All I could think of was the words of my third grade teacher, Kristen just doesn’t use her time wisely.
*twitch, twitch, twitch*
No matter how hard I tried I had a hard time resting. But then a weird thing happened. I decided to do the Bikram Yoga 60 Day challenge. 60 days of Bikram in 60 days. I happened to notice that I did great in every class but one. There was one instructor I HATED.
I didn’t hate her, just her class. She was a sweet, sweet lady, and I couldn’t understand it, but, every time I took her class, I felt like CRAP. I kept having to sit down. I didn’t have energy. I felt sick, winded, drained and this didn’t make any sense to me because every instructor says the exact same words. They have a 90 minute script that guides the class through the pose. It shouldn’t have been different. Same script, same poses, same room.
I could NOT figure out what was going on.
I drank more water. I took extra electrolytes. I thought maybe it was because she taught in the evening, so I took her in the morning to see if I could make it through. Nope. Still tanked. I thought back to childhood and wondered if it had to do with some unresolved Mommy issues I hadn’t located. Maybe my lack of energy was passive aggression on my part to sabotage her class (Hey, I’m a writer. We over-analyze everything).
No matter what I tried, nothing helped. And I wasn’t the only one who was struggling. I noticed other people in the class having to sit out or rest, because they couldn’t keep going, people who normally were fine.
WTH was going on?
Then, one day while in this instructor’s class, it hit me what was going wrong. In the second part of the class you are supposed to do a pose. This is an extreme exertion of energy. After the pose, you are to lie still in savasana, like a dead body (hence the name). Not only are you supposed to lie still like a dead body, but you are to lie there for TWENTY seconds. Yet, this instructor was rushing. She was only leaving us there for SIX seconds. We didn’t have enough time to rest and recharge, and it was drastically affecting every pose we did.
This was a powerful lesson for me. FOURTEEN seconds. What difference did FOURTEEN seconds make? It made a world of difference. Instead of having energy and doing every pose with confidence and ease, I felt like I was going to vomit and had to keep lying down. I LOST MORE TIME BY NOT TAKING TIME.
How many minutes of the workout did I lose because of those missing fourteen seconds?
How much of your productive time are you losing because you won’t take a day or two days to rest?
Dead bodies are good for us. Lie still. Do nothing. Dead bodies don’t have grocery lists and kids and deadlines and day jobs. We must have balance, Yin and Yang, light and dark, cookie and cream filling. The Force must be strong with you so chill the heck OUT!
I know many of you likely have a Mrs. Foster in your head telling you that you aren’t using time wisely. Ignore her and don’t feed her your attention and energy. Things we don’t feed eventually die, even the sour-faced elementary school teacher trapped in your head.
When we rest and recharge our work is better and clearer. Creativity is like a battery and it runs out of juice. Recharge that imagination. Play, relax, go to the park, finger paint, play Twister with your kids. Laugh. The world needs creative people to keep its humanity. If all of us are just efficient little workers then Skynet wins.
So go enjoy your weekend…after you comment. I will be grading, and those of you who don’t leave a comment are not using your time wisely. SLACKER!
So do you have a Mrs.Foster trapped in your head? Were you in trouble for not sitting still and for failing to use time wisely? So you have trouble resting? Have you overcome being a workaholic and have tips to share? Do you—OOH! SHINY!
I LOVE hearing from you!
Quick Announcement—I have a cool new class I am offering ACHOO! The Writer’s Guide to Going Viral. Also check out the new classes at WANA International. We have classes about global domination using Facebook, how to turn your book into an audio book, how to build a WordPress site of your own. Tons of cool stuff taught by WANA instructors hand-picked by ME (but please do not hold this against them :P).
To prove it and show my love, for the month of October, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of October I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.