Friday, February 25, 2011

The unskied slope of the mind: laying first tracks

At a Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference years ago, a psychologist told us that the best time to write is first thing in the morning. Our thought processes are clear and unsullied then, like a ski slope newly powdered with snow. We get to lay the first fresh tracks. He explained that with each task we undertake before writing—calling Mom, arranging dental appointments, reading the paper, paying bills—we sully the fertile ground of our creative minds. The slope still has powder, but it’s been skied over by so many others that it’s harder to see how or where to make our mark.

I’ve tried first-down-the-slope writing and found that it really does work. Amazing! But why is it so hard to do? After many years of fiction writing I have finally learned to keep mornings clear of phone calls…at least those I instigate. But e-mail is still a sneaky first-tracks thief, closely followed by non-fiction writing. I only seem to manage it on retreats, where there is no dog to let out and even the family knows I’m turning off my phone.

Here’s the other conundrum: at what price creativity? What about those little things that make life apart from writing possible and even joyful, like husband, family and unconditionally loving dog? I’ll choose them over a purer, more beautiful creativity every day.

Well, there’ll be fresh snow tomorrow and I still love I’ll hope to hit the slope at some point between untouched and completely skied in. -- Storm Petrel


  1. My best writing time is over lunch right beside the tracks left by my sweating glass of tea. Karen

  2. We all have to first breathe, awaken, and exit the bed (usually) to get our days started. If you have things that have to be done right off the bat, then you have things that have to be done right off the bat. I wouldn't sweat it. Find your time...find your words. If other things continually take precedence, then I'd suggest a reexamination of priorities, since something else is obviously vying for [increased] attention. No harm, no foul. Follow the fall line of your life, to continue with the metaphor.... :-]

  3. For years I wrote early in the morning before heading off to my day job. Now I find that I can write new words virtually anytime, though I still cherish those private hours before the sun peeks over the horizon...

  4. You've gotta love the swish and glide whenever you can find it!