Tool For Writers: Attentional Training
I'm finishing up Uncertainty, the book by Jonathan Fields, and last Friday, after I wrote about process visualization, I promised a post with another tip that'll help with your creativity. That tip is attentional training.
As mentioned earlier, Fields likes to give fancy names to things we've all heard of and are familiar with.
Thus, attentional training = meditation.
Or similar activities. Or, as Fields puts in, "techniques that create certain psychological and physiological changes in your body and brain." Like I said, meditation.
What captured my attention (hahaha, funny pun) was his discussion of active AT. What, pray tell, is that? He says "This is how the vast majoritiy of people get their AT in," and further, that many people engage in this kind of AT without even realizing it. For instance, when you're painting, or playing music, or knitting, or engaged in sports. The hallmarks of active AT are:
–a repetitive, deliberate activity that does not require constant attention (I'm way synopsizing here)
–an activity driven by novelty, speed or intense bursts of concentration.
I'm way good at the first kind of active AT, such as knitting or sewing or weeding, all that repetitive motion stuff. And I've been advocating it as a route to creativity for years. There's just something about the repeated motions that jars ideas loose from the brain. I can't tell you how many times I've stood up from the computer, done for the day, and picked up my knitting, only to rush back to the computer because of the rush of images that suddenly flood my mind. Other activities in this category are running and biking.
The other kind of AT that Fields discusses is mindfulness AT, things like meditation, in all its various forms (including zazen, insight, mantra, and so on). Over the last few decades, there have been studies galore that sing the praises of meditation for its mindfulness properties. Here's the deal about it: you do it just for the sake of doing it, but the benefits of it are legion. Because the more you train yourself to sit in meditation and empty the brain, the easier it is to sit and focus on your writing. And its good for your state of mind and your body as well, but who cares about that crap as long as it benefits the writing?
I like meditation because it gives me a break from the ongoing and exhausting rushing craziness of my story. Now, I'm the first to venerate the power of story, but when I'm caught up in my crappy story, the stuff I've told myself over and over again so many times I want to vomit, it doesn't feel very powerful or uplifting. So getting a break from it is pretty wonderful.
And let me just offer up the single most important thing I've learned about meditation: even if you're lousy at it, however you're doing it helps. I used to think that people who meditated didn't deal with the mind chatter that assails me. But they do. And that is why we meditate. To quiet the mind chatter so that we can listen–and hear the still small voice within, or perhaps the voice of God, giving us marching orders. The key is to keep at it. Even when your mind chatter interrupts you a million times in the five minutes you've given yourself to meditate. Even when you think its not helping. Because it is. And it gets easier.
Do you practice meditation? Or any kind of active AT? How do you feel it benefits your writing?
***Another great way to foster creativity is to make a vision board for your book or writing project. Download my free ebook to find out more, just fill out the form to the right of this post and you'll also receive a free subscription to my bi-weekly newsletter, The Abundant Writer.
Photo by keithcr, from Everystockphoto.