Another Helpful Practice for Writers

Buddha_religion_philosophy_223679_lYeah, sometimes I have a one-track mind.

Last week I wrote about some slightly different regular writing practices (beyond the usual round-ups of meditating and all the other things we try to do regularly and fail at).    And now here I am again, with the word practice in the title of the post.

At the moment, I'm obsessed with the concept of practicing because I'm working hard to do it myself–as in practicing writing regularly (to the tune of 1,000 words a day on my WIP).  And when one is trying to maintain a creative practice, having some other practices that you do as a baseline is helpful indeed.

I'm not sure if this will be helpful to you, or if that matter if it will be helpful to me over the long haul, as I only just discovered it yesterday, in church.  (When you're a writer, everything is grist for the mill. I get some of my best ideas in church.  I often take notes during the messages and my little carry-around journal is a mishmash of ideas I want to remember from the sermon and thoughts on my current WIP or other projects.  And this does not mean I'm not paying attention.  It just means my mind is particularly open.  Or so I tell myself.)

A Practice For Feeling Whole

Anyway, Lisa, my minister, talked about a process for feeling whole, based on the work of neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness and other books.  He also writes a cool regular newsletter, from which the quotes I used of his are taken. The idea is to open your mind beyond that which it usually obsesses about (I'm stuck on knitting blogs at the moment) to take in the whole of your experience.  This has the delightful effect of getting you away from the critical voice of the ego who likes to scream hateful things at you.

Why It Might Be Helpful

Two Reasons:

1. Because it could help your writing. If your ego (you can also call it your inner critic if you like) is in the habit of screaming the aforementioned hateful things while you are writing, then you really want to practice this practice. (Hahaha, I couldn't resist.)   As Hanson says, "With moments of practice that add up over time, you will feel more like a whole person, less fragmented and partial, less yanked this way and that by competing desires in your head."  (Such as, write, no, I'm terrible at writing, I must stop, no, I yearn to express myself, write, oh who am I keeping I must stop, no I must write….and so on.)

2. Because it could help your ability to see.  You're a writer, and you've got to have something to write about, as in, you need ideas.  But when you're stuck in your critical mind, worrying about one thing or another, like your relative worth in the world, it is difficult to be open and receptive to that which is going on around you.   And you really need to be paying attention to the world, because that is where ideas come from.

How to Do It

1.  Practice for 12 seconds at a time or longer.  (I give you permission to estimate.)

2. Become aware of all the sounds around you.  As Hanson says, "Disengage from inner verbal commentary abou them; stay with the experience of sounds as a whole."  In other words, don't judge, just listen.  

3.  Become aware of all the sights around you.  If you look toward the horizon, this activates "neural networks that process sights in a more global, I'm-integrated-with-the-whole-world-way."

4. And then become aware of your breathing, all of it, the sensations of it in your entire body.

My minister thought this feeling whole process was a dandy way to become more aware of God, and of being in a whole universe.  I agree.  And, I think this process is a marvelous way to become more centered in your creative self, without your inner harpy screaming at you.  Try this process before your next writing session and let me know how it goes, won't you?

While you're at it, I'd love to hear about any processes or practices you use to enhance your writing.

 Photo by fresh-m.

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6 Comments on "Another Helpful Practice for Writers"

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Don Williams
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Don Williams
“Practice makes perfect.” they say, so this is an interesting post Charlotte. Personally, when I’m stuck for inspiration, I always find that a good walk, and especially in the quiet of the woods, works like magic! I also like to pray a lot, and especially, once again, while in the woods. The sights of the trees and the way the light shimmers through their leaves and branch’s, and the smell of clean fresh air and the trees, as well as the sounds of the birds, animals, streams, etc., soothes and relaxes me, making me more aware of my surroundings and… Read more »
J.D.
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J.D.
First of all, though I haven’t been outside yet, I have survived storm night seemingly untouched. And I ask God to give peace to those who were not as lucky. As for your post, Charlotte, which is very good, there a couple practices that help me. I like to visit the scene. That’s not always possible. It may be 250 miles away, changed, or no longer standing. But when I can, I like to revisit the very spot I want to write about. Secondly, I like solitude, like Don writes about. Walking or I’ll settle for quiet time in my… Read more »
Zan Marie
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It takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery according to Malcolm Gladwell. That’s a hole heck of a lot of 12 second bursts. 😉

Charlotte Dixon
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Such a beautiful comment, Don, thank you! I love the image of you walking through the woods praying!

Charlotte Dixon
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J.D., I thought about you last night and prayed for you to survive intact. So I’m very happy to see your name in the comments today. And I’m sending love and light for any more storms that might come through. I, too, like walking. And I think that sitting and thinking is vital for writers and highly underrated!

Charlotte Dixon
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Heehee! Maybe we don’t have our 12-second bursts mastered yet, but I bet most of us have done that many hours of writing!

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