“Hang a Shingle”

Have you ever heard this expression? I forget where I picked it up, though I always misquoted it as “Hang a plank.” The meaning is the same, hang something on some thing to sell something, the thing hanged carved with the idea that your shop is open! For some reason, since it has this meaning I always thought the expression had Asian origins, but nope, it’s American English.

Alternately, it could be “Hang a flag,” in reference to early (~XXX BC) man (or the Tamils at least) using flags to mark their stores and/or what items for sale there. Important in the time before letters.

In a seemingly unrelated bid, it’s no secret to anybody that if you walk under a door frame, your mind undergoes some sort of “reset” and forgets anything it hasn’t committed to short- or long-term memory. To put it simply, it’s the reason you forget what you came for… More interesting to me is why is that? And why a door? How did something like that develop? The brain has to be basing something on the door, otherwise there’s that lovely and enticing thought that the door itself, in concept beyond physicality, is affecting the brain. And I’d love for that to be true!

But it’s through this quirky brain principle that you can also fool your brain into thinking that “reset” means that you’re entering a new place altogether. In example, a writer creating a workspace in what would appear to be the same room that he sees every day. To further explain horrendously, since I began my book-writing ordeal every day when I start writing, I stand outside my door. I hung a bookmark there, the shingle mentioned above, and I turn it around to face me, the equivalent of changing around an “Open/Closed” sign. As a mantra, I say “Open for business!” and open the door and get to work. (I turn it around when I’m done.)

Yes, it’s one of those “little rituals.” But, it plays on brain-science, so it’s effective. It can only be! By doing all of this stuff outside my door when I enter my room with that “new” mindset, it’s like a new place altogether and I feel different in it.

Or, I’ve turned it into a “studio” or some kind of place of business. It would really help a lot to go beyond this, like decorating my room to some degree, so that the space itself is a bit cheerier. The extreme would be to deck out it as I want it to be, although instead of some grand, elaborate fantasy space with whimsy and gold and color, what I want is the dingy, pragmatic “office” of what I believe an old-fashioned (extinct?), hard-nosed journalist to be. With action typewriter! (And ashtray… =( )I think that would be so cool!

What I’ve given up for that is the just the bare-bones concept of tricking myself into being productive, into thinking that “I’m on the clock,” and to knuckle-down and get to it. It’s my equivalent to clocking-in and it is what has helped begin the habit as well as forget all the stuff that came before “writing time.” Sadly, the time itself varies as does the amount of stuff produced. But what I also have is the bookmark, which is extremely portable, so I have a little ritual I can take anywhere, too.

This “part 4” has been a nightmare. For some reason, I’ve gone into (some) incredible detail over every little thing, which is something I managed to avoid in the first three parts… maybe. It certainly isn’t this bad. I don’t know why I suddenly thought that every little scene or thing would be important. They aren’t, but I know I have to write them so I know how much I can cut, or using what I’ve written, what I can allude to by summarization.

The problem with summarizing is that it doesn’t leave much room for dialogue and I think that’s important. Uh, well, at least for my story.

I’ve also finally gotten around to trying pencil-paper versus the computer for writing the rough draft. I think that helps immensely when it comes to eliminating distractions. A few minutes refresher before closing the computer, then doing my “hang a shingle” thing, and I can pretend to forget I ever owned a computer.

That said, it’s incredibly painful to hold a pencil for an extended period of time! I’m so out of that habit, it’s more than embarrassing. However, when I can turn this method into a habit, it’ll only add to my productivity as I’ll be able to write more, faster. (I transcribe it to the computer the next day before going on with the next day’s bit.)

It doesn’t make the ideas come any faster and since I’m a neat freak on paper for some weird reason, I’m still erasing mistakes instead of just quickly scribbling them out. Or better, drawing a line through so it can still be read in case it has something I might use later.

It takes a lot to write a book! I find, in some way, I’m using every idea I ever had, every bit of learning, every bit of everything I’ve ever seen or done or been told… In some ways, it’s great! I have resources I can use and I’m learning how to use them! In other ways, I’m aware that I’m focusing so much on this one thing that I’m not really even thinking about other works anymore. Thankfully, I’m still writing my ideas down, but that’s as far as any of them have gone… unless it’s an idea about this book, or can be turned into one.

I wonder if that’s born of desperation, maybe. Desperately hoping that any thing I see, even things I’ve seen hundreds of times before will somehow be new or offer something that I haven’t considered. I’m not trained enough to view all the angles of everything, but maybe lacking in that area will let my imagination take over and I’ll hit on something that I wouldn’t be able to if I understood all of it. Which may not be true.

By watching movies critically, I’ve become profoundly better at guessing the theme behind them. Ah, maybe not so much with books, I just get too lost in the story that I don’t really pay enough attention. I should try to do that, but a movie is just so much faster that it’s easier to remember more of the bits that illustrate a specific point. Plus, for the “faster” reason, there’s usually a scene where it’s just explicitly expressed.

I don’t have any particular part of the story I want to work on today, but I am looking forward to getting started. If I concentrate, I might be able to finally finish it (on paper!) and move on!

-j.

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