Finding the Discipline to Write Each and Every Day
Finding the inspiration to write is the easy bit: finding the discipline to publish is a little more difficult!
I am sure like me, you have read numerous articles sharing experiences and advice detailing how to approach writing a blog, ideas for structure, where to find inspiration, how to read fellow writers’ work and interact with them socially on your platform of choice and so on. For me the real difficulty, is actually putting pen to paper, or rather fingers to the keyboard, and articulating the abundance of thoughts and phrases and headlines incessantly running around inside my head.
I find inspiration in everything: my kitchen window, high in the Dutch sky is an immense source of ideas, of material, of fragments, of thoughts; and a place to think, and taking the time to think is so important.
Writers, musicians, and artists rarely have their best thoughts while sitting in front of a piece of paper. Nature, and society, and all the many and eclectic people surrounding us in our everyday interactions provide a wealth of material.
Many of the best songs ever written were written on the back of an envelope while on a train journey — think of the Beatles! Taking the time to formulate thoughts, phrases, plots and character description are often most effective when created away from the keyboard, when our mind can wander.
I am minded to think of Winston Churchill and his love of baths as a place to think. It is recorded that Churchill took two very hot baths a day, drawn by his butler, and kept at a constant temperature by means of a thermometer as depicted in films such as The Gathering Storm, Into the Storm and The Crown.
Some of my best thoughts are similarly found when having a bath: a place free from phones, from computers and from televisions or any other type of screen; and a place, most importantly, free from the interruptions of children. A place where my mind can run free, where links between previously unrelated thoughts can be found and whole narratives can be developed.
Never pass up the chance to sit down or go to the bathroom.
I am the person who keeps their laptop or a notebook close at hand, so those spur-of-the- moment phrases can be recorded and crafted sometime in the future. If it worked for Beethoven and Mahler (whose notebooks reveal that both were constantly working on a variety of projects and were constantly recording ideas for future use), then it should work for me!
Standing cooking the dinner or going for a long cycle ride in the country, or taking the daily commute are equally productive. Sitting endlessly in front of a computer screen, waiting for phrases to pop into my head, is not an efficient use of my time.
But to return to my initial point, finding the discipline to put pen to paper and commit all those thoughts to a finished, polished article is indeed a challenge.
I love films.
They take you to the most unexpected places.
As readers of my previous articles will know, I watch films when doing the ironing. Ironing can be so boring, but I loved crisp, perfectly ironed bed linen, so iron I must.
Last night, I happened upon the film Julie & Julia, (currently featured on Netflix NL) starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, and based on a memoir by Julie Powell, Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 recipes. This is the semi-auto-biographical story of a young unpublished author, who when completely frustrated by her job and the runaway career success of her so-called friends, decides to write a daily blog sharing her thoughts and experiences as she cooks her way through the complete works of Julia Childs, and her two-volume cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cookery after studying at Le Cordon Bleu Institute in Paris.
To me, this is not a new idea. In fact, it is one I have thought of many times myself, following one of my cooking heroes — Delia Smith, or Elizabeth David, or Rick Stein- and working my way through many of their recipes, but such a challenge is an immensely time-consuming undertaking as the writer, Julia Powell found to her peril!
It was also an idea taken up by a marketing consultant and aspiring food blogger Nathan Young, from Manchester, UK, who during lockdown, turned to the writings of Nigella Lawson, the British Domestic Goddess and started his own website and blog 365 Days of Nigella where he aimed to cook and blog four times a week: a slightly more realistic and manageable target than Julia’s daily endeavours, which nearly wrecked her marriage! Many Brits, including Nigella have followed his journey on Twitter and Instagram and marvelled at his culinary and photographic skills.
So I sit here, in my Dutch kitchen in the sky with a renewed enthusiasm and impetus to find and sustain the required discipline to articulate my thoughts each and every day, whether they end up being published or not. With Julie Powell’s calamities, and the vision of Meryl Streep as Julia Childs creating havoc in a French kitchen and finding endless delight in the simple pleasure of food shopping, I will commit to becoming more focused and productive and invite you to do the same.
The four magpies who dance on the rooftop across the road as I write, encourage us all to believe in ourselves, to have faith in our abilities and above all, to have fun!