The weeeeeeeeeee of the kettle didn't sound that afternoon, and so I almost set the house on fire.
The other day I stuck the teapot on the burner to boil and then promptly forgot about it. I was on the phone with my mum, did some writing, a load of laundry. You know, the kind of puttering that goes on when one's oblivious to the kettle water quickly burning up and the kettle becoming hot and black on a burner set to high.
I had bought a kettle with a whistle because I routinely put water on the stove to boil and then forget about it. Yet I thought I'd remember this time, so I took the whistle off as I didn't want to listen to it do its wheeeeeeeeeee-ing. When I smelled the burning, I realized what I'd done.
Although the house almost burning down clearly IS an emergency, dear reader, this post is about some ways you can cultivate your own "emergencies" to get writing done.
Poet Kay Ryan told the Christian Science Monitor that she views her writing process as an "emergency" in order to summon the inspiration to write. She says that it's the artistic equivalent of finding a loved one pinned under a 3,000 pound car.
You know those stories about people who achieve incredible feats such as a father who singlehandedly lifts a vehicle off his child? Well, Ryan says her vision of writing as an "emergency" allows her to access abilities and wisdoms she wouldn't normally possess as a mere mortal. This self-imposed "emergency" enables her to achieve incredible creative feats.
What hypothetical situations can you muster, dear reader, to heighten your awareness and light a fire under you to write (or to do any other creative work)?
Here's a sampling of what you might imagine to cultivate a writing "emergency." Keep in mind that you'll need a healthy dose of imagination to pull these off!
1) Imagine that you need to write at least 15 minutes a day for 7 days to be eligible for a big prize. This prize awards the winner to travel to a favourite spot that's either on your bucket list or you've been there and wish to return. Each day think of the contest you'll be putting your name in and the fact that you'll only be considered unless you write (or do another creative act) everyday for at least 15 minutes.
2) Imagine that you're trapped in an elevator and in order for someone to know you're in there you must write SOMETHING this week. It can be about anything. A project you started and didn't get around to finishing. A poem, short story.... Whatever it is that calls for you to write it down.
3) There's a fire in your neighbourhood and to put the fire out the mayor of your town has asked you to write. In your fictional town, writing is like water that will put the fire out. Everyone's counting on you to do what's required to stop the fire, save your neighbours and save the town. You can do it!
4) You've been diagnosed with a rare illness that requires you to write every day. It can be 15 minutes, 25, 40, whatever you can manage before (or at) work and in the evenings. This is the only medicine that will keep the illness from spreading, and hopefully, if you keep writing, then in time you'll be cured. It will take time though, and it may come back if you stop, so keep writing!
5) On the fabulous Wait But Why blog started by Tim Urban, one of his most popular posts is called The Tail End that charts the number of times the average human will do certain activities before they die. This post has been shared over 337,000 times! Say you're lucky enough to live to 90, well, he breaks down the number of weeks and then days in a year, representing them as dots on a page. Even if you live to be 100, you can still fit all the dots on the page and those dots represent the days of your life. Instead of measuring your days in units of time he suggests measuring your life according to activities. How many books will you read, how many football games will you watch, how many dumplings will you eat, how many times will you see your parents before they (or you) die, and so on?
It gives you a real idea of how much time you actually have left to do what you want or what you feel's calling to you--if that 'thing' happens to be writing. If you're 34 years old and do live to be 90 and write once a week, then that means you have 2,912 writing days left before you die. It might sound like a lot right now, but if you have several projects you'd like to complete and if you don't write some weeks, then that number may get eaten up. If you want more writing emojis then you need to write more!
Here's a chart of writing emojis below to show just how many times you'd be writing with the above scenario:
When I did this chart for myself, I decided to write more because it freaked me out. I wanted to write WAY more than what my calculations were showing me. I've a chart like this next to my desk and each time I write, I cross off one of the writing icons. Would love to hear from you about whether you tried any of these writing "emergencies" and how it helped you to write or create.