Taking it easy is a productive way to work.
Many of us already know that ideas float our way without effort when
we’re doing yoga, having a siesta, watering the flowers, or hiking in the
woods. Yet, we feel as if we must sit down and struggle to write. Moo of
Writing is a practice that harnesses our daydreaming talents.
I use the word “practice” because it is that. It isn’t sitting around
waiting for creativity to strike like lightning. Instead, it’s a daily routine that
combines physical exercise such as tai chi, walking, or swimming,
meditation, and a habit of free writing daily. Hear free writing meditations
Let’s look at this in reverse and start with free writing. My creativity
lies in my fingers, how about yours? I’m a poet, and when I was pulling
weeds yesterday, I heard the first line of a poem in my head—
the visceral smell of earth and rain. When I went into the house, I picked up my pen
and my journal. The next line came, then the next, and an entire poem flowed
from the pen onto the page.
If you relax first, then pick up a pen or your device and have at it,
you’ll delight yourself with discoveries.
But how do you create the habit?
You could try a habit loop.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that
our brains form habit loops consisting of three steps: cue, routine, reward.
The cue ignites routine behavior without thought. An example of a cue
would be the sound of your email dinging. A routine is your habitual
behavior prompted by the cue—you click on the email. The reward is what
you get as a result. For instance, you happily discover an agent wants to see
30 pages of your new book.
I find the cue to be a powerful impetus. For instance, I do yoga while
following instructions on a video. When I turn the video on, the familiar
music acts as my cue. Automatically, I unroll my yoga mat and take off my
socks. The reward is a relaxed and strengthened body.
Your daily writing cue could be pouring your second cup of coffee in
the morning or tucking the kids into bed at night; your routine could be ten
minutes of uninhibited writing; your reward—what appears on the page.
Envision a loop that would work for you.
And what of meditation?
Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Alice Walker, who wrote The Color Purple
and many other wonderful books, describes meditation as a “loyal
friend” that helped her write her books.
Contemporary Western science is building a body of evidence on the
benefits of meditation in an emerging field called contemplative
neuroscience. It uses the Western empirical approach to study the effects of
meditation on areas such as focus, compassion, stress reduction, and
physical and mental health. For our purposes, it is enough to know that
current science supports the premise that relaxation sparks creativity. The
concept isn’t new, but the technology for researching it is. Stories of
inventors and scientists to whom break-through ideas came while they were
in a relaxed state are commonplace.
The story of Thomas Edison is one of my favorites because it elicits a
Edison systematically mined the ideas that came to him in a relaxed
state, according to Daniel Goleman, Paul Kaufman, and Michael Ray, who
wrote The Creative Spirit. The authors report that Edison would sit in a
chair, his hands extending over the chair arms, each hand holding a ball
bearing. Two pie plates would sit on the floor beneath them. When Edison
relaxed, his hands would open, and the bearings would clank onto the
plates, alerting him. He would immediately write down what had been
running through his mind.
Relax the mind, and words flow. You’ll be as productive as a dairy
cow, chewing her cud, swishing her tail, and producing up to five gallons of
milk every day! You’ll be in the zone of mu, a Zen koan that, as koans are
wont to be, is unfathomable. Loosely, it means finding your way by getting
Out of your own way. In other words, no endless stream of coffee and
cigarettes late at night to hammer out a story!
Consider some form of exercise to get the kinks out of your body and
brain before you meditate and write freely.
Studies by researchers at Stanford University show that walking
boosts creative inspiration; one measurement of creativity increased eighty-
one percent. Overall, creative output increased an average of sixty percent
when walking compared with sitting.
Whatever your genre, whatever your dream, try this simple threefold
practice and see where it leads. Please visit www.nanlundeen.com and let
me know how it works for you.
Nan Lundeen is the author of Moo of Writing: How to Milk Your Potential, a finalist in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the 2016 Indie Excellence Awards. Buy it in print or e-book at Amazon.com
Nan Lundeen is a poet and an award-winning journalist. Her book, Moo of Writing: How to Milk Your Potential, was a finalist in two national indie book awards. Her columns on writing appeared in the U.K.’s Writing Magazine, the SC Writers Workshop Quill, and at femalefirst.co.uk. Her poems have appeared in Connecticut River Review, Atlanta Review, Illuminations, Yemassee, The Petigru Review, and others. Her books of poetry include Gaia’s Cry, Black Dirt Days: Poems as Memoir and The Pantyhose Declarations. She loves helping writers find their moos. Visit her at www.nanlundeen.com.