Writer’s Hibernation: The Benefits of Creative Immersion

“Without realizing it, they have entered a zone of accelerated learning that, while it can’t quite be bottled, can be accessed by those who know how.”
- Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code (pg.5).

Admiring butterflies at the Bronx Zoo.
Every so often I take a few “vacation days” to immerse myself in writing. Over the next few days, I plan to tuck into the hidey-hole that is my Hell’s Kitchen apartment and cut myself off from the real world. Before then, however, I'd like to share some thoughts on immersion and what I fondly call, “Writer’s Hibernation.”

In general, I consider myself to be a social person, but when these few days come around, you’ll be lucky to hear from me. Perhaps these are the selfish periods that authors frequently reference in their “Acknowledgements” section, when thanking their friends and family members for putting up with their antics. Throughout my Writer’s Hibernation, I usually awake before sunrise, grab a breakfast sandwich and some coffee, and settle into writing/editing (depending on the stage of the writing process). I may take a brief break to walk over to the Hudson Pier, daydream at the sky, or listen to music that echoes my writing, but in general, I resist rupturing my creative cocoon.

Although self-indulgent, these reclusive moments are necessary to reach the mindset in which creative ideas flourish. In Talent Code, quoted above, Daniel Coyle describes the various “hot beds” that have nurtured talent and skill throughout history. My appetite for scientific and evolutionary explanations devoured this book because it cited athletes, artists, and other great minds who maximize their skills and the chemical reasons for how. As Coyle briefly summarizes, “The more time and energy you put into the right kind of practice…the more skill you get, or, to put it slightly different way, the more myelin you earn.” (pg. 6)

I recommend Talent Code to anyone who hopes to hone a specific skill, if only to encourage that uphill battle of learning, failing, and overcoming. That’s what writing is for me.

In my 2008 Colby interview with Amanda Mellow ’09, I reference bouts of “sleep writing” in which I discover myself narrating my dreams and awaking with words on my lips. Writing Hibernations encourage this strange sensation because your mind is fully immersed in the project at hand. Perhaps painters dream of the right strokes or athletes of the perfect goals. For me, I hope the next few days will be wrought with nights of jumbled sentences and spoken dreams.
View from my writer's hidey-hole, overlooking Times Square.