I had an interesting experience at the symphony last weekend. The pianist was amazing, and for the first thirty minutes I was completely engrossed in his playing. And then my mind started to drift. Suddenly, I was writing a poem in my head while the concert was going on. Part of me felt guilty about it, like I should really be completely focused on the music. But it was pretty cool, too. While the musicians were making their art, I was simultaneously making mine. When I got home, I wrote down what I’d come up with, and it turned out wilder and stranger than what I’ve been writing lately.
I took two things away from that evening. First, the best writing doesn’t always start on the page. You can write while you listen to a concert, clean your room, or walk your dog. And secondly, at the symphony I was forced to sit down for two hours and just be there. There were no distractions, no one texting me, no homework to do. That kind of experience has been rare since I started college. Freshman year, I was shocked at how hard it was for me to write, and I wrote three times as many poems last summer (when I didn’t have a job and was extremely bored) than I did in my entire first year.
We’re all busy at Rice. But writers need time to rest—even to be bored. If every free moment of your day is filled with events, classes, friends, homework, Netflix, and napping, you have left your brain no time to cook anything, no time to synthesize and combine your experiences into that magic creative impulse that leads to art.
So here are six simple practices to give yourself some blank space to generate the beautiful poems, stories, and essays you have inside you.
1. Make a playlist that inspires you and listen to it for half an hour before you start writing. Really sink into the music. Close your eyes and feel the stories the songs are telling. (PS, the album To the Sun and All the Cities in Between by City of the Sun is some of the most evocative instrumental music I’ve ever heard. If you’re looking to start your writing playlist, give ‘em a listen!)
2. Go to a free event you think might be slightly boring—maybe a lecture on the physics of Star Trek or a silent movie screening. If it’s interesting, it could generate material for your writing. If not, you can zone in and out and think about whatever you want. The important part is that you’ll be in a space where politeness will restrict you from chatting, using your phone, or falling asleep, a perfect atmosphere for writing.
3. But also, sleep. I sometimes come up with ideas for writing in dreams. For bonus points, wake up half an hour earlier than you need to and use that time to jot down a few ideas/images/ephemera.
4. Go for a walk and leave your phone on silent.
5. Take a long shower.
6. Cultivate a stress-free hobby; crocheting, biking, cooking, organizing your room. Activities that engage your body without asking much of your brain are prime writing times.
These are just a few ideas. I’m sure y’all can come up with even better practices that work for you! Best of luck, and happy writing.
Written by Annabelle C.