Relax and Renew with Moo/Mu of Writing by Nan Lundeen

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

memorable image.

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 and let

me know how it works for you.

Happy writing!



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

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 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


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