There has been a great deal written about the physical space a writer uses to create their texts. It’s something many of us need to juggle with family, where the actual space within the home along with the time space to commit to our passions. Within writing circles, there is less written and discussed about the head space an author needs to enter before their creativity can flow. While some will refer to it as calling upon their muse or getting into the groove or flow, its the same thing – making space in the busy mind to dedicate to writing. Knowing that you need to enter this space is one thing, knowing how to do it is quite the other, and something that many writers struggle with.
Getting into the right headspace means quieting down all of the chatter which fills our lives. This chatter is normally instigated by our conscious, reminding us about the chores and tasks we aught to be doing, the guilty voice judging us on what we are and aren’t doing and the distractions; either visual or audible which attack us.
To demonstrate the level of headspace clutter you may have stashed away, try this exercise right now.
Close your eyes for about a few moments. The longer you close your eyes the better a demonstration it will be; so try for five minutes at the very least. During the time your eyes are closed, focus on your wish for silence and stillness. Some people call this setting your intention. Make your intention for the next five minutes as being still and calm with no distracting thoughts pulling you away from this sanctuary.
Do it now.
So truthfully, how did you go with that activity? Did you do it – or did you wimp out? That alone speaks volumes – especially if you think about the excuses you gave yourself for NOT doing it.
For those who tried it, you may have noticed the moment you attempted on being still or silent, that random thoughts began to pop up. They probably become an increasingly annoying distraction, which eventually pulled you away from your intention of calmness. All those random thoughts are the clutter and ‘junk’ that stops our minds having clarity. While some of it may be useful to us, without order these random snippets of information and thoughts become lost and pile up gathering dust.
Before your mind can hear the character’s voices, reason with them and begin the relationship required to write their story, all peripheral noise and the ‘junk’ thoughts need to stop.
By gaining a certain state of inner calm, a writer is better-equipped to access their muse, their words or to connect to their story. Differing philosophies and religious groups promote different ways to achieve a state of inner calm. While not promoting any one over another, for me I have found I can achieve it by following a few steps each time. They are in no particular order as it depends on the task at hand as to which one needs to be done first.
Each step needs to be customised to your own needs and beliefs and the list below acts only as a guide to your own pathway.
Prepare your physical and metal space for calm by eliminating as many of the modern distractors we surround ourselves with. This may mean taking the phone away or putting it on silent, turning off the wireless internet so that you can only write, rather than suddenly need to research medieval pigeon keeping. Carving out that physical space to prepare for the mental space can be extremely challenging, but without the foundation step being solid, anything done afterwards runs the risk of crumbling and being destroyed the moment a distractor raises its head. Preparing for inner calmness also means being organised so that you can do the activity of writing, without being distracted with trying to find things. Before you start, ensure you have all the equipment you need to write, whether its a fully charged laptop, pens or pencils or a new notebook. Give your mind no reason to be distracted with thoughts of not being ready to write.
Once you have prepared your mind and space for the task of writing, you will need to calm all other thoughts and focus on the scene or character you wish to specifically write about next. Set your intention for the time you have set aside. Some people believe that if you set this intention, then your muse is more likely to guide you towards it.
Deep breathing relieves stress and anxiety. It’s a physical trigger for the body to relax. Breathing slowly activates things in the body which basically stop the adrenal glands from secreting. When they are under stress, people often shallow breathe, which triggers the nervous system (and stomach, digestion and brain) into an emergency – causing more stress and adrenaline to be pumped through the body. Stop this cycle by exhaling slowly through the mouth and breathing in as deeply as you can. Hold each breath for a few moments and continue for at least five mins, focusing on your writing task.
It’s not to say that a writer needs to take themselves away into the hilltops or zen monastery to achieve quietness. Certainly, physical quietness makes it easier not to become distracted but the hurrying demands of modern life itself pulls us away from our intentions of writing. Stillness of the mind is a state of mental quietness and freedom from adrenaline and requires regular practice and commitment. With regular practice, these steps can take moments to undertake and can be performed in nearly any setting.
Good luck in finding your inner calm and sanctuary. What other things do you find help in carving out your writers space?