Have you ever noticed how long it takes to get ready? It can sometimes take me until sundown to get down to actual writing. The other day, in the name of hyper-organization, I cleared out 2,000 sent emails (all because I was looking for someone’s old email), updated my to do lists, had a brainstorming meeting with my “tough muse” husband, scanned the NY Times, sorted laundry, brewed tea, wrote lesson plans (a kind of writing), talked to my mother, did “research” (diverting me from one finite task to fascinating but  irrelevant tangents), bought intriguing greens like sorrel at the Green Market because I needed a walk in the fresh autumn air, etc. This type of rationalized procrastination kills creativity. “Getting ready” if kept in check can prime the subconscious pump for writing better prose, but more likely, it will just get more chores done. Our late, dear friend Don called getting ready for what it was—dithering. Joyce Carol Oates probably never dithers. I don’t want to give you a “dither in disguise” writing prompt, so instead I suggest:

-Visualize or write down first thing in the morning what you will do or complete that day given your other responsibilities. Time does not equal output. It’s better to write three pages than to write for three hours.

-Write whether you’re happy or grumpy. Your best work may happen in spite of your mood. Don’t wait for the flow, make it happen by committing to write. Being “in the mood” is highly overrated. If you don’t believe me, try this:

Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Check in with how you feel. Listen to the quiet hum of your heart. Observe with detachment all internal and external sensations. Sit in stillness. Open your eyes and write. If nothing comes to mind, write in rich detail a slice of your day, about a special meal, or a dialogue between yourself and a character in your head. Reward yourself after you’re done.