Cultivating 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?