As a professional writer you get lots of advice.
Some things stick and become daily habitual use, while others fly out the window, never to be seen again.
One of the greatest tips I ever received, and use every day, is how to write with a creative hat. Now, this isn’t literal advice, but I’ll get to that in a second. It means to write with the doors open. When you sit down to create, you open your mind and let your hands write. You do not think about grammar or spelling, you just write.
I go so far as to turn off all distractions.
I have a little netbook computer – something you can’t even buy anymore – and I use that to write.
It boots up fast, never needing an update. It’s like a physical note book I can open to immediately start writing when inspiration strikes.
It’s not connected to the internet, it doesn’t have Microsoft Word, and it doesn’t have a word count ticker for me to stare at endlessly. I find the word count feature to be like the end of the workday, waiting for 5:00 PM to strike so I can go home. It always makes time go so slow and feels like it will never end.
Creative writing isn’t about word counts.
It’s about writing. Writing is the only thing that matters.
Once the creative session has ended I take a break – a real physical break.
I get up from the computer, do not look at Facebook, and just get away.
I take a walk around the building, go outside, take 5 minutes to do something completely different from what you were just doing. Your mind, soul, and body will thank you.
I eat a banana or an orange. It’s therapeutic and distracting. I end up wondering why oranges always taste different? You’d think there could be a machine to quality control orange ripeness.
Then I wake back up from the daydream and get back to work. I have a paycheck to earn.
Then I sit down again and commit to the edit, put on a different hat, and write with the door closed.
This is distraction free time and you need to use the analytical left side of your brain. You need to spell check everything, correct grammar mistakes, and delete entire sentences if you need to.
If it doesn’t fit, it’s out.
You’re no longer in creating mode, you’re in “I’m about to share this with the world” mode, and you will be made fun of and teased relentlessly like you’re back on the elementary school playground.
These are brutal times, and you need to watch your back if you want to return home wedgie-free.
Not really, no one will pick on you, but you need to edit and fight like they will.
You need to kill your darlings, as the saying goes, and get rid of all your obnoxious wedgie references, because no one will think you’re clever.
In the beginning I had trouble getting in the creative spirit and staying in the creative mode.
I understood the “hat principle” but I kept getting distracted, or worse, I would edit while writing. I would butcher my creative process in mid-keystroke and kill my creative brilliance. It prevents you from being in the flow.
That’s not how creativity works.
What worked for me was to literally wear a hat.
It felt stupid at first, like who wants to sit in an office wearing a hat? But I had plenty of hats lying around so I grabbed a straw fedora.
I imagined what Ernest Hemingway would wear, relaxing in Key West as he would whittle away on his tomes.
Then, changing gears, and a new mental space, I would put a newsboy cap on my head and begin editing. I imagined what an old-school New York Times editor may wear while ripping apart my masterpiece.
That’s what worked for me.
Hopefully you can take these tips, learn from my mistakes, and let the creative spirit flow.
About the author.
Andy Peterson is the editor at fashionablehats.com. He’s a hat aficionado with an eye for fashion. He’s in love with the classic style of hats, history of hats, and the recent resurgence of the hat wearing community. Needless to say, he’s obsessed with hats. Need advice? Follow his blog on fashionablehats.com/blog.