From the Archives: Power Writing and Creativity

While I'm writing and teaching in Spain and France, enjoy this post from April 2008 (one of my favorites I've ever written):

First, though, I want to talk about creativity in general. I consider it to be one branch of the Three-Fold Writer’s Path, and in many ways, it is the most crucial. You can be the most talented writer in the world, but if you are not sitting down and using that talent, what use is it? If you don’t develop ways to convince yourself to return to the computer, over and over, on bad days and good, your talent will lay fallow, never to see the light of day.


And in my book there are few things sadder. Well, war and starving children in Africa, but you know what I mean. In developed countries, I’m convinced that the cause of much of our contemporary angst stems from people not exercising their creativity. Unexpressed creativity starts as a longing and turns into depression, or worse, perhaps, rage.

It is hard to be creative on a regular basis. Creativity is active. It requires us to think, to do, to act, to, well, create. These days, there are so many wonderful passive activities available to us that do not require action—surfing the internet, watching one of 500 available channels on TV, to name only a couple—that creating is practically a radical act.

Which makes it all the more important to do it regularly.

Creativity is a muscle. It gets stronger as you use it. When you go to the gym regularly and lift weights you build your physical muscles. So, too, with creativity. When you express yourself regularly, it becomes easier and more comfortable. The words flow and you develop a facility with them. The paint glides across the canvas. It doesn’t take you hours to find all your supplies. Ideas come as if by magic.

The opposite is true, too. Once you get away from the habit of creativity, it becomes ever more difficult to return. You have no idea where your drawing pencils are. You can’t, for the life of you, recall where you intended to go next in your novel. And what on earth were you trying to evoke with that mess of color on the canvas?

It only gets harder. And that longing inside you will grow and grow…until it becomes something else, something you probably really don’t want to allow to fester. So why not take the path that seems harder at first but is actually the easiest?

It is ultimately the easiest path because it leads you home to your heart and your soul and the very essence of your being. Which, in the end, is really all there is.

So here, ta-da, are the fifteen keys:

1. Be A Beginner.

The Zen Buddhists talk a lot about beginner's mind. I am a buddhism slacker, but this concept is called Shoshin, and it is a good one. The idea of it is to be eager. Be open. Don’t have expectations. Don’t think, do. Have a sense of wonder. This is an especially vital key for the professional, who may develop a mind-set that everything he does must be perfect the first time out. Banish those thoughts. A beginner wouldn’t expect to be perfect. Nor should you—no matter where you fall on the beginner to expert scale.

2. There Are No Rules (but make some for yourself if it makes you feel better).

Who says you can't write a novel in 100 viewpoints? The result may not work, and it may not be particularly publishable, but it might lead to something that is. Forget everything you know about the rules (see #1) and just go for it. See what happens. Sometimes this key is a bit much for people. The lack of rules is scary. So make some up for yourself–like, every sentence must start with a word that is capitalized. There, does that make you feel better?

3. Do It Badly.

The idea that everything has to be perfect is a huge creativity killer. So, go for the opposite. Write one bad page. Draw one crappy sketch. Sing a song off-key. The world didn't stop, did it? And go back and take a look at that dreadful page you just wrote. Hmmm, might you not be able to use that first sentence? With a few changes, does the third paragraph work fairly well for the opening? I thought so. Writing badly is an entry point into your work. Put something, anything, down on the page. Then you have words to work with. And that is a wonderful thing.

4. Just Do It.

This goes hand in hand with Key #3: Do It Badly. The truth of the matter is, you gotta just do it. And do it again and again. It is that simple and that difficult. Sometimes just doing it is the easiest thing in the world, and sometimes it is the hardest. I do not know why this is so. Sometimes I wring my hands and emote and pace and get down on my hands and knees and scrub the floor, all in an attempt to not just do it. And then when I finally get around to doing it, I wonder why on earth I whined and moaned for so long. Because once I'm in the middle of doing it, I love it more than anything on earth. So why I have to re-convince myself to go back to it over and over again, I do not know. If this happens to you, take heart and know that it is normal, at least in the realm of writer normal. Which, I have to say is not the same as normal normal, if you know what I mean.

5. Process, Not Product

When my daughter was getting her post-bacc certificate in photography, which was close to getting a MFA, this was one of her mantras. It has always been one of my mantras, too, and I have the hand-painted pillow to prove it. I actually wrote about this in another post recently, but it is such a bedrock tenet of creativity that I have to mention it again. Just remind yourself that it is not about the finished product, it is about the process of doing it. It really is. Trust me. Ironically, by focusing on the process, you'll end up with a much better product. It's another one of those mysterious creativity things. I don't pretend to understand them, I just obey them.

6. Do The Work, Don't Judge It

Goes along with #5. If you are focused on product while you are in the process of writing, you are likely to be judging it. Don't do that. Just do the work. It is akin to learning to be in the moment. I will confess here that I am a meditation slacker (I know, I know, I've got a slacker list a mile long–Buddhism and yoga and meditation being tops on it. What does that say about me?). But when it comes to writing, there's nothing I love better than kicking into that flow and being so in the moment that time passes without me even noticing it. That is only possible, my friends, when you are in the moment, one with the words, and Not Judging them. Judging is for later. Its hell when its judging time, but we are not talking about that now.

7. Small Steps

Rome wasn't built in a day. Rome really wasn't built in a day, and your creative projects won't be either. Don't get so caught up in the big picture that you forget to take the small, repeated steps. Make them as small as possible. Don't think about the entire novel, think about the next scene. Don't obsess about the entire canvas, focus on the next color of paint. Break things down into their smallest components. This seems so obvious–and yet I have to remind myself of it again and again.

8. Make It A Habit

The self-help experts say it takes 21 days to create a new habit. Thus, if you make a date with yourself to write your novel or plan that garden, or work on that song you're writing, and keep the date every day for 21 days, at the end of it you'll have established a new habit. Don't know if the 21 day thing is true or not, as I always forget to keep track, but I do know that consistency and the dreaded D word, discipline, are actually bedrock elements of creativity. This is counter-intuitive, but true. As I've said (over and over, to the point of causing retching) creativity is active. You've got to just do it. And the more you just do it, the easiest it gets.

9. Use the Power of Momentum

The really cool thing is that once you are consistently using your creativity, critical mass kicks in and you get momentum on your side. Momentum is what happens when you get the perfect idea for chapter ten when you're in the middle of writing chapter nine. It's what happens when you "hear" the perfect line of dialogue for your screenplay while you are writing the description for the scene. Once your mind is engaged with the work on a regular basis, it will help you by sending you messages and ideas. Apparently, the mind likes to be kept busy. The flip side of this is familiar to anyone who has set aside a creative project–it takes awhile to get back into it. You have to go back and re-read the entire novel in order to remember what you wrote, or you have to go back and review all the instructions on that sweater you are knitting. It is ever so much easier to just stick to it.

10. Use Your Subconscious

Put your subconscious mind to work for you. Think about your project or read a few pages from it right before you go to sleep–then prepare to pay attention to your dreams when you wake up. Command your subconscious (you won't hurt its feelings, promise, it likes to work for you) to figure out the details of the next scene you have to write. Once you get in the habit of allowing your subconscious to work for you, you'll be amazed at how helpful it can be. I wrote an earlier post that goes into this in much more detail. You can read that here.

11. Don't Talk About It, Do It

Too many people talk about the novel they are going to write, or the art they are going to produce. Too many people relate the whole damn story of the screenplay they play to get down on paper. But I believe talking about it too much is a big mistake. It dissipates the energy of the project, takes the air out of it. So don't talk about it. Do it.

12. Refill the Well

This is especially important when you are finishing a long project. Working on an extended creative piece takes not only time but energy. Have you ever had the experience of intensely focusing on your writing for a few hours and suddenly realizing you are starving? That's because using your brain burns calories. It takes energy. You need to keep yourself going by constantly refilling the well. Julia Cameron advises taking Artist's Dates, which are scheduled times when you consciously do something that pleases and replenishes you. When I'm writing a lot, I like to read a lot–words out, words in. Its as if I need to replenish the supply. It is vitally important that you figure out what nourishes you and commit to doing it often. Its not selfish, because it is paving the way for you to bring your creative gifts to the world.

13. Keep going.

I know. Duh. But it is depressingly easy to quit when a block arises or a rejection comes in the mail or someone says something mean about your work. But don't let the bastards get you down–writing all the time is the best revenge. Not writing well, or publishing well. Just writing. So keep at it. You'll break through that block, the next letter will be an acceptance to a prestigious publication and the mean person will get hit by a car–not injured, because we can't wish ill on people. Just shaken up enough so that they are no longer mean.

14. Take a break.

Just the wee-est bit contradictory today, aren't I? Well creativity is a contradictory activity, too. While you must commit to keeping going in the face of all odds, you must also learn to take breaks once in awhile. Let the work compost. Don't force it. Sometimes walking away for a few minutes or even a whole day (see Anne Wayman's post on taking time off here) can be the pause that refreshes. Just don't let a break turn into procrastination.

15. Let it go.

Ah, how good it feels to finish a piece of work, know that you've done all that you can do, and then release it out to the world with no attachments or expectations. At least that is the ideal. Doesn't always happen that way, but we can continue to try. It is all too easy to hang on to a creative project and not let it take its rightful journey into the world–whether it is a novel seeking a publisher, an essay needing a home in a magazine, or a blog post. It is all too easy to find yourself slowing down as you near the end of the project, or for blocks to suddenly appear when all was smooth sailing before. Sometimes this can happen because of a reluctance to let the pages go. But what good are they going to do the world locked away on your computer, or in a drawer where nobody can find them? Send your babies out and let them find their homes. The energy of that will come back to you in surprising ways.

Letting go is a suitable stopping point for this series on creativity. And now that you know everything there is to know about creativity, go forth and do it.


Zen Creativity: Working with Nothing

While I'm in Nashville, I asked several friends to guest post.  Here's the first one, from the wonderful  Welsh Zen master Derek Ayre.  Be sure to visit his blog and tell him you read him here!

Zen Creativity: Working with Nothing Derek

by Derek Ayre

Zen practice is not for everyone and it is important to realize that the article that follows is my interpretation of my experiences with Zen. As we are all unique my views may differ greatly to the views of other Zen practitioners. This I believe is because Zen can be found everywhere, and viewed from every perspective.

“Live with the question” – this is a statement that has stuck with me from a Zen workshop on creativity that I attended a few decades ago, and through the years the meaning of this statement seems to have transformed along with my creative potential.  It took me a few years to realise that Zen does not give an answer to any spiritual enquiry, but only provides me with the means to discover my own authentic answer; but the question always remains, as it cannot be answered with the analytical mind.  The question I believe is pure, raw creativity that defies reason.  Even as I am writing now, because I am writing about Zen, reason seems to fly out of the window, so what follows may not make a lot of sense, but if it elicits a new and unreasonable experience in the reader, then Zen is doing its work through these words.  So I invite you to be aware of such an experience arising and whatever may happen afterwards.

I have read so often of Zen masters sending their students back to their meditating cushions to keep working on their koans.  A koan in Japanese Zen, is a question with no logical answer, because the answer is the question. For instance,  “what is nothing?”  One cannot answer because to answer would make nothing something and it would therefore no longer be nothing! Nothing is pure emptiness, the source of all creativity. Nothing is the ultimate context. Self is the context in which life is created on a day-to-day basis. Self is therefore empty, with no meaning.  Self is nothing; Self is potential creativity.

The essence of Self is created on a day-to-day basis, this is what makes life itself pure creativity. So whether we know it or not, we create life.  True Self is beyond logic, it is a realm of nothingness, a realm with no-meaning, a realm that gives birth to all existence. From this realm we can create whatever we want to create. But there’s a little catch here… When we immerse ourselves in any creation, we will become what we have created, we will identify with it, and therefore lose the truth that we are the creators of our creation and not the creation itself. And so in this way, we live with an illusion that we are not empty, we are not without meaning; we are writers, doctors, lawyers, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters etc. In fact we are Self, pretending to be what we have trained ourselves to do, and doing is not being.  At this point we cease to own our talents, they own us!  Not that there is anything wrong with this. In Zen there is no right or wrong, but we have an opportunity to be aware where we are coming from and enjoy the game.

Having had glimpses of this transcendent consciousness many times, it is amazing how my mind still continues to challenge my creative ability. In reality, my mind is the tool of creativity but it does not want to be merely the tool of creativity. It wants to be the master every time!  Whatever skill I identify with is my mind’s doing, but Zen practice supports me from time to time, by asking with that silent inner voice, “is your mind your servant or your master?”

As a Zen practitioner, it took me a many years to really understand that Zen does not give answers, it only poses questions, and there is always a question that comes up again and again. This is because answers are just beliefs and beliefs reinforces the rational, illusory mind. Zen is not rational.  Then one day, out of the blue, I really got to see that the answer was the question – an understanding beyond understanding. And then that understanding was gone! I tried to get it back, but that was futile. Zen is not reasonable in that way.   In Zen, there is no formula to attain such realizations other than the practice of zazen (Zen meditation) where I focus my mind and look for nothing. When I am not looking, when I am not knowing, when I am empty, realization will come again and then I will experience that I am the creator of my own experiences.

Zen and The Art of Writing: Coming from Not Knowing

Like all writers I have spoken to – especially when I am writing about Zen – there are times I have found myself staring at the blank page on the screen, feeling paralysed and unable to write a word. I would ask myself “why can’t I write today?”  or “I had some great original ideas yesterday! Why do they sound so much like nonsense today?”  Then I would realise that Zen is nonsense and I don’t know anything!  And then suddenly the words would flow so fast that I could barely type them! I would begin feel that I was writing with passion and expression, creating my voice, and somehow it was making some sort of crazy sense to me. But where had this creativity come from? 

It soon became very apparent that my daily zazen was making a difference. My focus in zazen is on my breathing; inhaling and exhaling mindfully, excluding all other thoughts, aspiring to that state of not knowing.   This mindful emptiness is the objective in zazen and it is impossible for most people to do for long periods of time, but the intent to do so must be strong and it is the intent that is enough to make a tremendous difference in the realization of Self as a creator.

Perhaps it’s a paradox that occurs when I attempt to still my mind in this way; my mind seems to be forced to create new ways of grabbing my attention away from the imagined threat of that emptiness or no mind, and some of those distracting thoughts and feelings can be very profound. I believe this is the energy of no-mind – all-knowing yet not-knowing – filtering through to awareness. Is it nothing giving birth to something? Is this the essence of creativity? I live with the question.

If I consider the subconscious mind, I can regard it is a vast storehouse of knowledge that would make the most powerful computer in the world appear crude and primitive. My subconscious mind already knows what I want to create in my life, without me having to think about it consciously all the time. The intent to create is already there and I know from experience that the practice of zazen definitely enhances my creativity by expanding my awareness into and beyond the capabilities of the mind.

Through Zen discipline I am transcending my mind and making it more like my servant than my master, but my mind always resists. There are many, many reasons for why it behaves like this, but I believe that because I aspire to transcendence in zazen, the discipline allows the mind’s capabilities to expand into other “spaces” that are infinite, and such transcendence is negating the belief systems that the mind is so wrapped up in. I use the word infinite, because creativity never finds its limits; there is always more to write about, more ways of saying things, more characters to give life to.

Beliefs are not experiences but concepts of experiences and they are often very limiting. For instance a simple thought attached to a belief that I cannot do something, will act immediately! On the other hand, a positive thought can also act in the same way but I will tend to be less aware of such positive thoughts as they often pass unnoticed because they are non-confronting.  Before I practiced Zen, I noticed how I would always produce my best work when I was in a state of conflict or stress. No wonder procrastination was a great problem to me with my creative endeavours! My mind is not interested in enhancing true Self, but in reinforcing it’s own belief systems. Whether they be negative or positive is irrelevant, the mind will just run the software.

As my Zen practice has evolved through the years, I have come to the conclusion that ultimately the mind and its tricks have to be transcended, but not resisted. If I don’t seek too hard, because seeking too hard is trying to escape from and change, the here-and-now experience, I can get a small glimpse of that space of no-mind that transcends reason and understanding; existing in a realm of no thought. It is nothing: a state of not knowing.

Words Are Inadequate

The state of not-knowing is beyond reason, it is all but impossible to translate into words. It is pure experience. You know it when it happens, but try and explain it to somebody else and you would find that it is near impossible.

However, if you practice any creative art, you can communicate your experience through your art, whether it is painting,  music, writing or anything else that is creative.  True communication I believe is when you can elicit an experiential response in others..

However, Zen is beyond absolutes and words when used skilfully can also elicit an experience – so, just when you think you’ve understood the Way of Zen, everything just got turned on its head! Good writing can elicit an experience in the reader without naming that experience. Many great poets can do this. I have attended many writing workshops where the question has been, “what do we think the author meant when he wrote this?” How every Zen! 

Creative Barriers

Procrastination has always been a barrier for me and again I would say that it’s because the mind feels threatened by the emptiness of no-mind. Ego (mind) rattles on persistently…  My writing isn’t good enough.  I am going to make a complete fool of myself. How is anybody going to be inspired with what I write? What if I make a mistake? I don’t know how to spell!  What does that word mean? I don’t make any sense, what sort of writer does that make me? And on and on and on, and Zen practice exposes more and more of the mind’s tricks so that I can resolve them. If I am procrastinating, and I sit in zazen, the urge to procrastinate will grow even stronger as my enhanced awareness will drag it up by its roots. It may not seem like it, but I am getting closer and closer to a resolution as more and more of it explodes into my awareness.

I have talked to many writers who have experienced such barriers. I would say that they are in touch with their own Zen, their own creativity, The stronger the barrier the closer their creativity will be. They are in that space of no-mind that the ego fears so much if they do nothing but witness the roots of their barriers as they get closer to the surface of awareness.

How Transcendence Comes

When I am feeling challenged with thoughts like… do it later, you are not in the best frame of mind, you’re not making sense, and other such excuses.  I need to take care at this point of resistance and not obey its demands, but I also need to fully acknowledge the mind’s objections and continue working anyway.  For instance, from the beginning and up to approximately half-way through writing this essay, the mind kept whispering to me this is senseless. This is a waste of time! Nobody is going to be interested in this load of  &!%$!  I simply responded in agreement… everything in life is senseless, everything is a waste of time and a few lines by Shakespeare came to mind. “Tomorrow, and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day…. [life is] told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  Signifying nothing? Exactly! There’s that nothingness again! It seems Shakespeare had some good Zen!

When I am playing my music or doing my writing, I have come to habitually produce the mindfulness of zazen, whilst giving my ego the space to yell and scream, and I will get breakthroughs. And just like a sitting in zazen, I feel as if I am coming through a dark night and slowly emerging into the dawn as creativity starts to flow. But if I give in to mind’s demands and don’t create at all, then whilst I may not get to feel vulnerable in showing my creation, I would not get to feel that creative bliss either, and how dull life would be!

Derek is a hypnotherapist now in semi-retirement. He is also a writer and Zen practitioner. Visit his blog, Pieces of Zen.

On Being a Beginner Again

Last night I painted.Paintingsupplies

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about not making having time to paint.

And finally, last night, I got to it.

This morning, I realized one of the reasons, besides the pure fun of it, that painting is so good for me.  It is because I am approaching it with a beginner's mind.  That would be because I am a beginner.  There is something both terrifying and wonderful about doing something you don't have the vaguest clue how to do.  To engage in an activity as a beginner is to see the world anew.  And of course, many spiritual traditions, most notably Zen Buddhism, encourage approaching life with this mindset.

But I have been writing for so long it is nearly impossible for me to look at writing with fresh eyes.  I can look at each project with new eyes, and I can switch from fiction to non-fiction and back again to keep things lively.  But I write so much and so often that it is difficult to remember the terror of facing the blank page and not knowing what to do.

Because last night I faced a blank canvas and I didn't know what to do.

It was paralyzing at first.  And I turned to my usual comforts–words. I looked through the books on painting I'd gotten for Christmas, ignoring the images in favor of reading the text.  Not finding exact, step-by-step instructions for how to begin, which was what I was seeking, I moved on, to the pamphlet that came with the acrylics.  Um, not much of use there, either.

Finally there was nothing to do but just begin.  So I squirted some paint on the little round plastic palette and and started covering one of the canvases.  (You can see in the photo above that I started on very small canvases.) And it was wonderful.  Once I had the whole thing covered in blue, I experimented with adding dabs of red.  And then I decided that what I really wanted to paint was a flower.  And so I worked on that for the rest of the night.

And I was happy.  Because it was fun.  And it didn't matter what the end result looked like.  It didn't matter that I'm not an accomplished painter (you can see proof of that in the photo above).  What mattered was the process and the joy I felt in doing it.  What mattered was that even though I'm not good now, I can see that I'll only continue to improve.

So here's what I've gleaned from my first experience with painting.

1. Tools for the Journey–There are none.  You just have to jump in.  You just have to do it.  You just have to pick up the brush and dip it in the paint, or put your hands to the keyboard and begin writing.  That really is all that is important.

2.  Process trumps Product–I struggle with this.  Any professional writer does.  The trick is to create good work that will hold up in the marketplace while still allowing yourself to get lost in the flow.  But painting reminds me that ultimately it is all about the process.

3.   You Can Always Improve–And you will if you continue to practice painting or writing or any creative project.  The one thing I loved about my son playing video games as a boy was that it taught him he could improve his skills if he just kept at it.

4. It is Worth It–It's worth it to find the time, to carry the card table up from the basement, to get organized, to take the first flying leap onto the canvas.  Because painting is fun, and transporting, and absorbing, just like writing. 

5.  Start Small–Note the very small canvases above.  Take one little scene from your writing at a time, or focus on one sentence.  Then write another, and another…

So now I'm going to take these insights and apply them to writing.  I'm going to attempt to be a beginner again, every time I return to the page.  I think it is another path to writing abundance.

How about you?  Any experiences with being a beginner?

**And remember, if you struggle so much with getting words on the page that you need help, I offer writing coaching and mentoring.  Just email me–the address is at the top of the page.

Writing and Laundry: Constantly Seeking Zen Moments

My daughter is grown and gone, married now and thinking about having kids of her own (if the stupid army would ever let her husband come home).

But sometimes often she comes to the house to do her laundry.  Which is why, last week, I ended up down the basement folding a large load of clothes from the dryer, which needed to be done before I could do my own laundry.

I will admit, I was feeling the wee-est bit resentful.

But then I started thinking about when she was a baby and I washed diapers.  (Yes, Virginia, there was a day when women washed their own diapers.)  A friend–older, wiser, and more experienced as a mother–had told me how much she loved doing laundry for her four children, folding the soft, white diapers, the tiny onesies, the little pink and blue sleepers.  So every time I started to get bored or cranky about doing laundry back then, I'd remember her words and try to pull myself back into it by focusing on the good parts of the task.

My friend was very Zen, though she didn't know it and actually considered herself a born-again Christian.  But being where you are, appreciating it, and staying present, is all very Zen, as I have learned and continue to learn from my Zen friend Derek.

My best writing times are Zen, too.  I'm constantly working to find the magic key to being present, staying in the flow, and deal with distractions (ie, ignore them).  I find it easy to be totally engaged when I'm doing my own work, less so when I'm working on assignments for others.  But it is imperative that I find ways to focus and be present no matter what I'm doing.  So here are some of the tricks I've learned:

1.  Shut down all inboxes.  This will allow you to resist the urge to check email, just real quick, and see if anybody has written you. Which then leads to the even more irresistible urge to answer them.  And by the time you've answered them, yet another one has come in…You may also wish to put your phone on silent and close the office door.

2.  Set an intention.  Sit quietly for a few moments (see below) and focus on what you want to accomplish.  Ponder what this will take, or review your notes before you launch in.

3.  Meditate or breathe deeply for a few minutes before launching into a writing session.  This can clear your mind and allow you to begin refreshed.  You can also do a written meditation and get the dreck out on the page

4.  Set a time limit.  Dave Lakhani talks about the power of an hour, the idea being that you set aside an hour, eliminate all distractions, set your intention to write, set a timer, take a deep breath and dive in for the duration.  Short, focused bursts of writing can really get the job done.

5.  Keep a notepad or a stack of index cards beside your computer to jot ideas down.  Then, when you get a flash of brilliance, you can make a quick note of it to peruse later.  This also prevents you from stopping in the middle of what you are doing and googling your latest idea, which can then lead to a lengthy distraction through the internet.

6.  Buy a brain entrainment CD which can help you stay focused.  I like the ones here.

7.  If your attention wavers, bring yourself back with a quick breathing exercise you've figured out ahead of time (say, take three deep breaths) or a statement.  One I've used successfully is, "Spirit come back to me, I need you here with me now."  A bit odd, I know, but I got it from a Christiane Northrup newsletter years ago and I've always liked the ring of it.

8.  Take breaks.  Do an hour and then get up and move.  I know I'm guilty of becoming one with the computer and sitting for so long that my knees creak and all my muscles complain when I finally do get up.  Much better for mind and body to move regularly.

Those are my tricks for finding Zen states in writing.  Anybody have any others?