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OPERANT CONDITIONING
April 13, 2004
 
I stare down at the keyboard: nothing. This is rare, but it does happen -- an eMo to write and nothing springs to mind. Instead, the thirty things I have to crowd into today parade past my mind's eye. I cannot possibly get to them all. I begin a mental triage.

But the mental triage of one's chores doesn't make a good eMo.

Still, I have begun to tap at the keys; perhaps muscle memory will evoke a thought. This happens: you enter a room and forget why you're there, so you go out and come back in again and bingo, there it is. You lose the thread of a sentence, and so you repeat the last words you said; sometimes that helps you find your place.

Interesting: writing makes you write. Sitting down at the keyboard, picking up your notebook and pen, drawing your fingers across a smooth new page -- these things make writers begin to write.

Praying makes you pray, too. Sitting down in your prayer place, picking up your prayer book or your rosary, turning on the shower and feeling the water pour over you like the love of God, lighting the candle you always light when you pray -- any of these, if they are preambles to your prayer, actually make your prayer begin.

Do yourself a favor: drop the idea that you need to wait for a burst of inspiration before you can do something creative. Use the body's -- and the soul's -- innate capacity for operant conditioning to help you along. Set yourself up with a few stimuli that will lead you to the thing you want to be doing and always do them before you begin it. Soon they themselves will help you begin when inspiration fails.

Gypsy the Cat mews softly to go outside. Q opens the door for her. She scampers up to it and, before going outside, pauses to put her front paws on the hinge and peer through the glass to see what's out there. Night or day, rain or shine: she gets up on her hind legs and looks out before she goes outside. She never goes out without doing it. It's ritual. She just has to stand up and look out.

A candle. A soft shower of water. A special chair. A smooth blank journal page, inviting you. Get used to these inanimate friends of your soul's pilgrimage, and they will help you along.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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