I’ve caught myself doing something stupid and I’m stopping it now. Besides being a writer, I’m also a gamer. Well, I try to be. My video-game playing started out when my sons were young and I made the rule that they couldn’t play a game until I had played it first so’s to pass judgment on it. In the process, I found many games I loved and have spent many wonderful hours with my sons, playing their games and talking about their lives. That will stop only when they pry the xbox controller from my red, dead hands. What I do need to curtail is playing before I work.
Many days I “start” my writing process with a quick game to get my creative juices flowing. Or so I told myself. But I realized early on that for me, there is no such thing as a quick video game. Unless you can define “quick” as “adj.: less than a full day.” I made a rule for myself that I couldn’t touch the game console until I had completed three major deliverables. So most mornings, I have been able to bypass the Xbox and go right to the computer. But that didn’t necessarily mean I was working.
If I was on Facebook, I usually played any “Words With Friends” game requests that were waiting for me. Unfortunately, I have a lot of friends playing that game. After a good warm-up of two or three hours, I figured I’d get to writing after lunch. But hey, it’s all about Words With Friends, right? So Julia Cameron would be proud. My “morning pages” were just morning tiles, placed vertically and horizontally.
So sometimes I recognize that I spend too much time playing and chatting with my hundreds of closest friends on FB and go “incommunicado” for a day.
That’s when the HP games icon usually starts calling me. I don’t even have to be online to play them: they’re on my computer itself.
I figured I’d play a little “Cake Mania” or “Farm Frenzy” to warm up my thinking for the day. In the beginning, this did work. The games were easy and somewhat mindless, so I could think about what writing I needed to do, prioritize my writing, think about where I wanted to go next in each piece, etc. I thought it was valuable time spent.
Then the games got hard and I actually had to think about what I was doing. Even worse: I was getting frustrated and uptight. The truth hit me when I realized that my stomach ulcer was acting up and I’d given myself a headache. I took my hands off the keyboard and paid attention to my heart rate and respiration. I was breathing fast and my heart was pounding. And it was all because I couldn’t make my cakes fast enough to serve the customers coming into the circus!
This was going to put me in a frame of mind for productive writing? Who was I kidding?
Luckily, last month I found a marvelous book of writing prompts. For quite a while, I’ve been looking for a good book of prompts and exercises that I could use with my various classes and workshops. I had concluded that I needed to just write the book myself (I probably still will). Then I found “The Write-Brain Workbook,” by Bonnie Neubauer (Writer’s Digest Books). This book is the first I’ve found with great prompts, and so far I’ve found only one mistake. (One prompt alludes to the story of the little engine that could and she calls it a little red caboose. No, I did not write a response about being an obsessive-compulsive editor.)
Neubauer’s book is great, if you’re looking for daily prompts that will stir your creative juice. Each prompt is displayed in a colorful presentation, using different techniques to dredge thoughts out of you that you’ll be surprised you had. Already I’ve written two responses that I think I might polish up and publish. Neubauer even created 366 prompts, so I made sure that I wrote my first response on February 29!
OK, this morning I wrote a blog post. Now I need to get to work. I’ll save my “Write-Brain” workout for after work, kind of like stopping at the gym on the way home. After I get my writing done for the day. In the meantime, Farm Frenzy, Cake Mania, Words With Friends, Red Dead Redemption and Left 4 Dead 2 are all calling to me, like Sirens on the rocks.
Call away, you tempters. I need to write.