- As infants, we learn motor control by the repetition of a series of actions that will result in reaching our goal.
Crying and squalling equals a nipple shoved into your mouth to ravage like an angry beaver (Your spawn didn’t have early teeth when you nursed? Just mine? Figures.) and fill the empty hole in your gut, or spur an adult to remove the wet pile of slop newly deposited into your diaper. Howl long and hard enough, and eventually you’ll pass out to enjoy the much needed nap your mom’s been rocking and begging you to take for the past 2-3 hours.
The shriek ‘til you’re fire engine red routine CAN earn you all three, if you’re lucky.
And life is good.
But once we become toddlers, the same techniques don’t apply to earn us, say, another episode of Yo Gabba Gabba or Dora the Explorer. Instead, such babyish behavior might horrifically backfire and land us in time out. Our brains must adapt, suss out new methods to get what we want.
Hence, the development of new techniques. Cue ninja skills. The evolution of negotiation, manipulation and yes, even blackmail, weave their way into our subconscious behavior as we grasp towards adulthood. No longer are we allowed to toss a tantrum to achieve our desired goal. We train our brain and learn what gets results.
As writers, our goal is to write. Yes? Despite the whole “just sit your ass in the chair and do it” approach often tossed at us to over-simplify the process, we need to acknowledge the actual muscle memory of writing. We ponder and test drive the series of events that initiate the creative process.
This concept was brought to my attention at the www.WisRWA.org Write Touch Conference earlier this summer. Whether it was Jade Lee or Elizabeth Hoyt who spoke of it, my feeble mind forgets, so I will give both wonderful ladies credit for the term.
Muscle memory is like that squall and cry behavior –do this, and that happens. We trained ourselves as infants, and we can train ourselves as adults.
Think. Where and when do you write best? In your fortress of solitude, that specific scent of candle lit, soft indiscernible no-lyrics-to-distract-you (Squirrel!) music playing in the background, with several hours to get in the ‘mood’ to create?
Yeah. Good luck with that.
That’s what your brain *thinks* you need. But you CAN train your brain to abandon that ideal and perform on command when you want to pound out word count the same way you trained your mom to shove a boob into your rooting little maw to shut you up.
Begin with the tools that help you most. Do you write best on a laptop? Notepad and favorite lilac-scented pen? Desktop in the corner? At the kitchen table? Library? The B&N Starbucks with several of your brainstorming besties? (Oh wait, that’s me again…)
Find the tool that triggers your brain (or MUSE, if you must use that fickle bitch as a crutch), and use it to jumpstart the writing action Every Time.
Finding the right combination truly can be magical. For me, it’s the not-my-house location and like-minded writing buddies to hold me accountable that lights the fuse. We get our coffee, we have our chat, and then BING! The timer begins and fingers start flying in true Pavlovian style. Twenty minute timed increments turn quickly into upwards eight, nine hundred words or more. We do at least three of them and bam, I’ve finished a chapter.
Muscle memory: Laptop, plus overpriced caffeine and off-site setting = writing output. The key combination signals my brain that it needs to WRITE. NOW. Because I have trained it to do so by the repetition of a series of actions that will help me to achieve my goal.
Now who would ever compare a boob in the mouth and a dry butt to finishing a novel?
Me, I guess. But that’s just the way my trained (Squirrel!), cough, rambling mind goes. But hey, it works!
What combination works for you?