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Things I Do When I Should Be Writing

Clutter Cat

  • Eat a snack.
  • Organize MailChimp lists.
  • Write long and thoughtful Facebook comments on posts that are three months old.
  • Go through all our Asana projects and come up with GREAT IDEAS for how other people should get their work done.
  • Eat a snack.
  • Pluck my chin whiskers. Variations on this include: filing my nails, clipping hang nails, and Googling eye shadow tutorials.
  • Declutter my desk.
  • Eat a snack.
  • Mark a bunch of Asana tasks complete to see how many unicorns I get.
  • Write a GREAT post… for my personal blog.
  • Oh look! It’s lunchtime!

Oh, but I’ve TRICKED you! These aren’t distractions, but participants in the mystery of creative inspiration and the writing process.

Jack Donaghy calls it The Shower Principal.

Dennis Palumbo — a Hollywood screenwriter turned psychotherapist — writes about this phenomenon in his book, Writing From the Inside Out, and in this article, In Praise of Goofing Off.

It’s during activities like the ones above that allow our thoughts to “percolate” or “simmer,” as he puts it, which is just as necessary as actually writing. “Think of it this way,” he writes. “You’re not watching the entire first season of Mad Men merely to avoid working. Rather, you’re allowing the part of your brain that creates to labor away unconsciously, filtering and sorting, selecting and discarding.”

I often forget this in the middle of a constipated effort to create something out of nothing. But the moment I throw back my chair in frustration and find something else to do, inspiration comes.

For this reason, I agree wholeheartedly with Palumbo when he says, “The creative process is goddamned mysterious.”

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