Cultivating the Mental Energy to Write

Thinker_statue_rodin_233683_l How does one coddle the mental energy to write?

Ah, that is the question, is it not?

As I wrote in my post last Thursday, energy for writing is different from energy for other activities, because writing is active and engaged.  (As opposed to say, TV watching, which is passive.)  And sometimes, in the crush of our daily lives, it is difficult to find this energy.

I have a few tips for finding it.  But first, let me say that you've probably seen these tips before.  They really aren't anything new, and I know I'm doing nothing more than reminding you about them.  But here's why we all need to be reminded of them: because they work, but only when done consistently.  Damn.  Sometimes I hate that word, consistent.  It is the bane of we creative types' existence, because we like to think of ourselves as free spirits.  But really, it is consistency–as in putting your ass in the chair and writing regularly–that fosters creativity. 

So, consistency fosters creativity, yet we need to find the mental energy to be consistently creative.  Here's how:

1.  Meditation.  Oh, lord I rebel against this one.  So much so that I've never really managed to create a consistent meditation practice of any duration.  However, I get so much out of it that I return to it again and again.  And so I guess, in a way, that is a consistent practice.  It really does help to center and clear your mind, if you can force yourself to do it.

2. Journal.  This is one I am consistent at.  I never go anywhere without my journal and I generally write in it every day, even if it is just a brief note about an idea or something I've seen.  Some days I'm scribbling madly away in it.  You can do Morning Pages, Active Imagination, or just sit down and write.  It seems counter-intuitive to spend precious writing time working in a journal, but it actually helps me to get the dreck out, clearing the decks for the "real" writing.

3.  Repetitive Action.  Do something that involves repeated motion.  Sewing, knitting, weeding, mowing the lawn, hammering nails.  I don't know what it is, but the soothing action of doing the same thing over and over jogs the mind and gets ideas going.  

4.  Artist's Dates.  Julia Cameron recommends these.  Find something you love and go do it, by yourself.  Swing in the park, go to the art supply store, buy crayons and a coloring book and color…whatever you like to do and don't allow yourself to do on a regular basis.  I have to admit, I don't do this often.  But every once in awhile I realize it has been quite some time before I've allowed myself and artist's date and go off on one.  I come back feeling like my brain has been washed, rinsed and dried and is all shiny and clean.

And, here's the bonus point, one I've only recently realized is incredibly effective:

5.  Practice Being Less Judgmental.  Sigh.  I know, I know.  Judgment is a writer's stock in trade.  Right?  Well, not really.  What I'm talking about here is the kind of knee-jerk reactionary judgment we make every day, over and over again.  And particularly, I'm talking about the kind of judgment that is so ingrained in us we've made it into a story.  What I'm finding as I do my best to look at how I judge, is that if I stop myself from going into the story the world opens up.  And then there is room for ideas, and creativity, and even awe to come in.  And I still have to work on it practically every second of every day.  But the struggle is worth it.

Okay, let me hear it from you–how do you cultivate your mental energy?

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11 Comments on "Cultivating the Mental Energy to Write"

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janet
Guest
06/01/2010 08:04

For me, visualizing the dream goal — whether it’s the Academy Award for best original screenplay, or New York Times Best Seller list — it’s a motivator. I won’t get a chance at either of those things without doing the work.

The reality of visualization (for me), though, comes in even smaller steps — visualizing/remembering the feeling of accomplishment from finishing a work, from taking the journey with the characters, from being pleasantly surprised at what comes alive on the page.

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
06/01/2010 10:13

Excellent suggestion, Janet. And I do agree that it is important to visualize the small steps in between, too. I’ve known people who could not get from here to there because they couldn’t figure out the steps in between.

Ledger D'Main
Guest
Ledger D'Main
06/01/2010 15:09

What I do to cultivate my mental energy is to firmly plant my brain in the cast-off remnants of peanut shells atop the bar at the local watering hole and mumble ‘ho, ho, ho,’—alas and woe, I have yet to reap any rewards from my Ole McDonald stratagem…

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
06/01/2010 16:29

Alcohol, especially of the red wine variety, is always a good option.

Ledger D'Main
Guest
Ledger D'Main
06/01/2010 17:39

I never drink…..wine…

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
06/01/2010 17:41

Oh, but it is so good. You’re a whiskey man, right?

Ledger D'Main
Guest
Ledger D'Main
06/01/2010 18:15

I drink the amber brew of the pirate’s port…
Did you notice the theme in my first response?

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
06/01/2010 22:29

Ah, you are a clever pirate, Ledger. I missed the theme, was too busy pondering the peanut shells and wondering if the floor of my formerly favorite bar in Eugene, Oregon, still is littered with them after Peanut Night.

Jessica
Guest
06/01/2010 23:42
I take a nap. Seriously, I’ve found it’s the best way for me. I set a timer for ten or fifteen minutes and I try to sleep. If I’m actually tired then the rest will do me good. If I’m just being lazy and trying to avoid working on my project, the enforced inactivity will annoy me until I have to hop up and do something. Then I know it’s time to put the brain into gear. I am continuing to learn the advantages of journaling. The other day I sat down to write in my journal. Halfway through my… Read more »
Maryse
Guest
06/02/2010 05:42

Spending time with like-minded people is a great recharger for me: unconditional acceptance and good cheer never fail to renew my spirit. Reading a good book helps too.
Basically, anything that nurtures a sense of happiness and calm within.
Maryse

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
06/02/2010 10:52

Jessica, Love the nap idea. I sometimes find that just getting up from the computer is enough to trigger a barrage of ideas. Don’t understand why, but I’m glad when it happens.

Maryse, so glad you were able to get the comment function to work. Mysterious computer glitches are so frustrating. I love the idea of finding something that renews your spirit, because that is, at heart, what its all about.

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