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Clear the Mechanism

“Clear the mechanism,” says pitcher Billy Chapel in the movie, For Love of the Game. With those magic words, he enters that mysterious place which exists outside of time, where distractions fall away, where concentration meets performance and perception tunnels into simple goals: Perform. Produce. Win.

Writing requires a similar compartmentalization. The ability to clear the mechanism and sink into the world of words is akin to a deep-sea diver in lead boots and a big, brass helmet who sinks into the abyss, tethered by a tenuous lifeline to the boat above. His view is restricted to a single porthole, as a writer’s view is limited to a glowing screen, or a notebook and paper. Creatures that exist only in these Stygian depths float past, visible for a short moment, and captured only with great effort. A moment of lost concentration and they escape.


People. People want things. Not unreasonable things, but untimely things. They pop your bubble of concentration, scatter your thoughts, and the creatures of your imagination flutter away.


The world wants things. It wants you to pay your bills. It wants you to pay attention. Service the car. See a doctor and a dentist and an optometrist. People are rioting in the streets, a disease runs amok, and neighbors are choosing sides for a battle based on disinformation, innuendo, rumor, and cute little memes of half-truth, all baked into their own personal echo pie.


Much of writer’s block is the inability to clear the mechanism. To let go and sink into the wine-dark sea and find that magical place where concentration meets performance, and the words flow on hidden currents of imagination.


Writers complain they can’t write because Trump is president, or the corona virus has seized the nation, or there is a coup d’etat taking place Washington, or there is injustice somewhere in the world. Kids, family, bills, email, Facebook, travel…all of these external forces jerk on the tether, pulling the diver out of the ocean, fouling the oxygen hose, breaking concentration.


The message is simple: If you want to write—or perform at any creative endeavor—learn to find a way to clear the mechanism. Block distraction. Compartmentalize. Drop into the ocean and leave the world behind. Learn to do it over-and-over again, often several times a day. If you need to, turn off the Wi-Fi, wait for the kids to go to sleep, shut off the newsfeeds and the Facebook alerts, put on noise-canceling headphones and set your playlist to shuffle, or simply go to your happy place and close the door. Drop into that vast, mystical realm of imagination and tap into the warm vents of creation.


Believe me, the world will pull you back to the surface soon enough.

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