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by Jackie Shannon Hollis

For awhile, after three delicious weeks at Hedgebrook, I thought maybe the problem had become worse, that Hedgebrook had ruined me for anything but long interrupted spells of writing. And, by long spells, I mean days and weeks, not hours. But, while it’s true that long interrupted spells bring something particularly to my writing, I know it’s not realistic, not if I want to produce. So I’ve been looking at ways to take advantage of those times when I have just a few hours, or even less. I thought it might be fun to share a couple of these techniques and it would be fun to hear some of yours.

Walking: For me, walking is writing time. Things come to me that come no other way. If I’m working on a piece and can’t find my way into it or through it, I will when I go for my walk. Since I’m a multi-tasker, walking is one of my main forms of exercise. I walk fast and hard. But I’ve learned to carry slips of paper and a pencil or a recorder.  And I’ve learned to give myself the grace of stopping to catch those things that must be caught or they will be lost.

Anchoring:  When I was at Hedgebrook, I consciously set some “anchors” that would help me remember the wonderful writing groove I had there. Anchoring is a term that come from neuro-linguisting programming and is simply a way of connecting a desired feeling or behavior or state of mind with a stimulus. Early in my stay at Hedgebrook, on one of my walks, I picked up a beautiful seashell. It was almost perfect. It became one of my anchors. I kept it at my desk at Hedgebrook and, whenever I finished a good spell of writing, I held that seashell for a moment. I felt the sandy grain of it, the curve of it’s grooves. Back home, when I have a fifteen minutes or a half hour or a few hours to write, and if I’m choosing between writing and some other thing I could spend that time on, I pick up that shell. It reminds me and takes me quickly to the page. And when that turns into a good spell of writing, I hold the shell again, to deepen the anchor and to collapse the long uninterrupted anchor with these small moments, to reinforce and deepen these good writing experiences in small chunks of time.

Close the door:  My husband, Bill, know the closed door means I’ve found a few moments and this is what I’m doing with them. Writing. Closing that door, for me, is an anchor too. And for Bill it is him knowing I’m doing something I love.

And you? I would love to know what the rest of you are doing.



Jackie Shannon Hollis
About Jackie Shannon Hollis


  • Leah
    10:07 PM - 31 October, 2011

    I like to walk as you do. Sometimes I’ll listen to music to prime my literary pump but I never listen to music while writing. It distracts me. I find little things which inspire my story, perhaps a leaf or a photo, and I’ll keep these things nearby as I write.
    There is no definitive method…just what happens to suit me for the moment.

  • H.
    10:21 PM - 31 October, 2011

    Fantastic post with useful tips that any writer can apply to their writing. I especially love the NLP technique of anchoring (using a touchstone) the experience of good writing experiences. 🙂

  • Shimi Rahim
    2:49 AM - 1 November, 2011

    Wonderful, just what I needed to read right now. It reminds me of something I used to do at my former place of employment when I needed to close myself to email and cube conversations and dive back into a writing project. I would put on a pair of thick, old-school, foamy black ear-covering stereo headphones. Not to listen to music. Just to put the headphones on and let them block out the busyness of the external world. They were a signal to others not to interrupt me, and a physical reminder to myself to not interrupt myself during my writing time, to let myself be submerged in writing.

  • Corry Venema-Weiss
    4:42 AM - 1 November, 2011

    I communte by bus. I get on, sit down, put my headphones one and log into my project. This practice must borrow from those NLP anchoring techniques you talked about, but I get good stuff done and since I can do it twice a day it keeps the work alive in me, and keeps me close to my working edge.

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