Get up out of your chair, take your hands off the keyboard

From Jane Friedman’s blog: Beyond BICHOK: How, When and Why Getting Your Butt Out of the Chair Can Make You a Better Writer

I hit this paragraph and laughed:

You’re driving on a long stretch of highway when you have an insight about your main character’s childhood. Or you’re mid-hair-rinse in the shower, when you suddenly understand how to bring together the braided strands of your novel. Or you wake up at 2 a.m. with the resolution to that thorny plot issue you’ve been wrestling.

Have you ever noticed how many ideas arise when you’re not sitting at the keyboard? 

So true. I particularly like these examples because it’s awkward to stop and take notes in all these situations. At least, not coherent notes of more than a few words. I will add, sometimes this is very fast. You close your laptop and go to get the dog’s leashes and BEFORE YOU EVEN GET TO THE DOOR, suddenly you figure out what you should do with that next scene or that you were just starting to go in the wrong direction.

For decades, writers have been told the most important thing to do is to put “butt in chair, hands on keyboard.” As acronyms emerged with USENET forums in the 1990s, this became abbreviated “BICHOK.”

Which I still think is good advice a lot of the time! Most of the time! But it’s definitely true that taking the dogs for a walk … or just going downstairs to get a lightbulb … getting up out of the chair AT ALL can definitely help kick you past a problem scene.

Okay, the rest of the article is all about the subconscious and the creative mind and so forth. Then this:

Conventional writing advice suggests taking a break when you know what’s coming next. That presumes that only your writing time is productive and that all look-away time is unproductive.

But in Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing, the late sci-fi author wrote: “As soon as things get difficult, I walk away. That’s the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you.” He clarifies by saying that when you move toward cats, they tend to move away, but if you ignore them, then they become interested.

If you move properly, your cat won’t move away from you when you move toward her. But still, yes.

Lots of tips about when to take a break and what kind of break is good.

Long article, not as shallow and facile as so many seem to be, certainly worth a read if you’re interested.

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5 thoughts on “Get up out of your chair, take your hands off the keyboard”

  1. I see this professionally as well. I will leave myself a voice mail, or send myself a text, or send myself an e-mail, depending on when and where inspiration hits. Will often get to the office and process three or four middle of the night e-mails to myself with brainstorms.

  2. Yes, very much a fan of sending myself emails! Often right at bedtime. Turn off the light, instant thought about something useful, send an email that I hope will be coherent in the morning …

  3. Yeah, this is a good post – thanks for pointing me to it! For me, I spend a lot of time gardening in the summer, which is wonderful for daydreaming. I keep a notebook in my gardening bag so I can run write things down when I have a good idea.

  4. Walking about joggles the thoughts so they form new configurations. That’s why motion helps.

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