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

A Poem by Heather Corbally Bryant

The Easterly

           For CH



The easterly, you say, will be coming in today,

This afternoon—I like the way you say easterly

With such certainty—the way you know the


Tides—when they will rise and when they will

Fall—when they will come in and when they will

Go out—but it is the way you say easterly that


Touches me—the way you know this land, this

Sea, this shore with complete certainty—the

Currents of water are etched in your mind,


Time after time—the sands, the winds, the rain—

The moons, the dredges, the shipwrecks, the

Ocean lives in your mind for all time—today,


As we cross sandy cove you look seawards and

Say yes, yes, the easterly will be coming in today.



Heather Corbally Bryant (formerly Heather Bryant Jordan) teaches in the Writing Program at Wellesley College. She received her A.B. from Harvard, and her PhD from the University of Michigan. She has given academic papers and poetry readings in Ireland throughout the United States.

She published How Will the Heart Endure: Elizabeth Bowen and the Landscape of War,” (University of Michigan Press, 1992). She also has six books of poetry either published or forthcoming: Cheap Grace, The Finishing Line Press, (2011); Lottery Ticket, The Parallel Press Poetry Series of the University of Wisconsin Libraries (2013); Compass Rose, The Finishing Line Press (2016). My Wedding Dress, her first full-length volume of poetry was published in 2017, and Thunderstorm, her second full-length volume, was published from The Finishing Line Press in 2017; later in 2017, The Finishing Line Press published her chapbook, Eve’s Lament. Her work of creative non-fiction, You Can’t Wrap Fire in Paper, will be published in early 2018, as well as her new forward to the reissue of her grandmother’s autobiography, Assigned to Adventure, originally published in 1938.

A Poem by Davidson Garrett

Freudian Slipcover



Have you heard the barker of Seville?

Canine basso roughing up Rossini

under limbs of fragrant orange trees

swaying to minor keys of rhythmic traffic.


No great Figaro: but figure why

a loose ended howler huddled on all fours?


Could it be Mama, Papa, Aunt Rosina

conducting his outrageous bow-wows

from an excavated orchestra pit

inside the psychic cavern of a lost mind?


They say fast roulades are best sung

after rigorous hours of arpeggio practice.

Or is it in the lungs, these embellishments

of exploding notes on familial themes?


You know the tune, “Largo al factorum.”

Ruff-ruff-ruff-ruff—instead of tra-la-la-la.


Each day around noon, bark with him,

the aria of the disillusioned dog.

Afterward, hot bones will be sold—

with or without relish




Davidson Garrett is a poet, actor, and yellow taxi driver in New York City. A native of Shreveport, Louisiana, he is the author of the poetry collection, King Lear of the Taxi, published by Advent Purple Press, and three chapbooks, To Tell The Truth I Wanted to be Kitty Carlisle and Other Poems, published by Finishing Line Press, and Southern Low Protestant Departure: A Funeral Poem, and What Happened to The Man Who Taught Me Beowulf and Other Poems, published by Advent Purple Press.  In September 2017, his spoken word play, Conspiracy Theory: The Mysterious Death of Dorothy Kilgallen was performed at the Boog City Poet Theater Festival in New York’s East Village.

A Poem by Keith Moul




A Canadian Pacific train today rolls by

With protracted sounds that grind steel

On steel; these echo hello as soon goodbye.


These are not sounds I recall from childhood;

These sounds clarify political intentions, as

Tomorrow this train, full now, goes north empty.


In my town today, railroads’ romance has ended;

The whistle breathes its oath through local hills

Of grim necessity: the wheels roll out, you know,

And if only for the track, the wheels must roll back.


Antipathy seethes at local bars.

At home, paint peels in life-giving sun;

Paint fails its warranty.

Fruit rapidly browns too much to eat.


Love the idea of railroads to create towns,

To link across this broad America, here

Where the whistle wails its ironies.

Workers have dug graves along the routes.





Keith Moul’s poems and photos are published widely. Finishing Line Press released a chap called The Future as a Picnic Lunch in 2015. Aldrich Press published Naked Among Possibilities in 2016; Finishing Line Press released (1/17) Investment in Idolatry. In August, 2017, Aldrich Press released Not on Any Map, a collection of earlier poems. These poems are all from a new work about prairie life through U.S. history, including regional trials, character, and attachment to the land.

A Poem by Autumn Meier

This One Should Rhyme



They say the universe was once so close

That the space between atoms was erased

And the true meaning of intimacy arose

As the first particles united, unchaste


Time, matter, and energy combined

As the knotted thread of life began

And in a story oddly predesigned

I think you were there, holding my hand


The explosion saw the dust of stars

Scatter through the vast landscape of space

And like the puff of slow cigars

The scene evolved like gently-worked lace


Our atoms were lost in the cosmic dance

But for billions of years the search never ceased

I knew we would once again meet by chance

And the heaviness of time would be released


Then—in a little coffee shop, on the outskirts of Kyiv,

I understood why, all these years, I’d believed.





Autumn Meier‘s work can be found in Straight-Up Magazine and Carcinogenic Poetry. She lives in Waxahachie, Texas with her husband and 438 books.

A Poem by Devi S. Laskar

Instructions for Driving at Night

                                                             After Tarfia Faizullah


He pulled me over. Third time this week. First time

at night. His sirens screamed red. The sky a ripe

melon. The sky a girl on the street driving


into the open mouth of dark. He swatted

my face with his baton. He swatted my lips

with the butt end of his flashlight. He wielded


the baton like a finger to touch my breasts.

He used his flashlight to get a better look.

His car was full. His colleagues joined in. I fell


against the parking brake, the car rolled forward.

I fell and he used his baton. I remember

I love marionettes. I love how a string


is pulled and its puppet jerks to life. I did

not apologize to him for making him

pull me over. The girls on their hot pink bikes


and matching helmets cycled faster past us.

Girls breaking away from our bloodletting. Girls

tossing their bikes onto grass behind the white


picket fence, and running inside. I fell when

he pulled me out of the car. I was too dark

for them to rape me. He thought my skin was a


contagion. His friends joined in, rendered my

body fruit salad. My face cherry compote.

My pomegranate heart exploded open.


I kept watch for Hades and Persephone.

After a while I closed my eyes. I saw stars

being born, the big bang that comes before light


travels. I knew not to speak. I knew not to

cry. I knew it would get worse. But I cried out.

I cried out for my mother, hundreds of miles


away. I cried for hundreds of mothers, ones

on the other side of those picket fences.

I cried for my friends but I could no longer


remember their names. I cried though all I could

see were their faces, milky outlines, makings

of constellations. Stars already dead but


still shining holy, night after night. Flashlights

moving the traffic along, his breath a spray

of petrol before the fire starts and looting


begins. He wished aloud for my death. Someone

called an ambulance so I lived to hear

on the six o’clock news that I was a slut


with a car, resisting arrest, deserving

the prizes I received from his giving arms.

My mother did not cry but asked if I had


apologized, kept my head down low, staring

at the mat under my sandaled feet. I said

no and through her sudden tears, she smiled.




Devi S. Laskar is a native of Chapel Hill, N.C. She holds an MFA from Columbia University in New York. A former newspaper reporter, she is now a poet, photographer and artist. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Atlanta Review, Fairy Tale Review, Noyo River Review and The Raleigh Review, which nominated her for Best New Poets 2016. She is an alumna of both TheOpEdProject and VONA/Voices, and poetry workshops at the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. Finishing Line Press published the first of two poetry chapbooks, Gas & Food, No Lodging in March 2017, and Anastasia Maps in December 2017. She now lives in California.

Two Poems by Robert Knox

The Leaf Washers

“The plants eat light.” From Michael Pollan’s “How Smart are Plants?” in the New Yorker


Yesterday we washed the leaves

Today they salute us

Reaching out, waving their storybook lives

Like the pages of a book

Fluttering long fingers

Beckoning, or speaking the gesture language

Heavier creatures invent upon their fingers

They pulse their high wire stories through the air waves


The leaves live in the air, the air is home, shelter, food for them

The current of breath that fills my senses

Orders time for the dance of the hours

The leaves make time for us, filtering the world

The minutes emerge from pores and make sense for us,

Slow as the waves of the world

They save the voices of the children

They lie still before the whine of the engines

To still them is to deafen the magic

They droop like ears silenced by the humdrum of machines

They turn the salutes of the hours into triumphs of air

They sluice and filter the music of the world

They are the companionate senses of the wild green earth,

A bowering neighbor,

A grotto of tuned and tasted pleasure, pre-digested by fertility,

A porous protection, a second self

They guide the sun to my temple

I am—we are—within the village of the world,

Inside temples among the jungled cities

The leaves salute our fellow travelers in their journeys through the sky

As friends, superiors in life, elders, survivors of earlier days

They know where they situate is all the world

They mediate the base of things, the fundamentals,

Molecules, waves, atoms, energy-matter—the rain in Piccadilly,

The fountains of Beirut, the voices of the stars




As A Tree



Tannish tassels smudging the plants,

bedecking leaves like off-color tinsel,

a plague of dust tarnishing the green.

Mannish flowers these, gifts of the oak,

a thing made all of secrets.

You never see it sleep, or shout, or breathe, or blow, or natter

or rumble, or do anything.

The wind “does.” The birds leap and shout.

Leaves appear. Branches fall.

Catkins parachute softly in the spring,

a daring raid behind enemy lines; success assured by numbers.

The oak is ever that which is, not that which shows

in its becoming.

It is always being a tree.

Surely we all have heard this moralized explanation of “giving”—

these theatrically magical seeds

these time-lapse photographs of “stages”:

the seedling with the corny hat, a sproutling, a slender sapling (like a boy with a bat),

branches that shoot outward like crosses

held against the terrors of a world of fire, seething winds, clinging ice,

quaking thunder, shaking earth.

Time passes through the tree.

It perseveres in thereness, wise in the way of treeing.

We encounter, witness, regard, visit,

become what we will, in our endless evolutions.

The oak always was what it will be

whenever I behold it:  then is now.





Robert Knox is a Boston Globe correspondent, a poet and fiction writer, and the author of a recently published novel based on the Sacco and Vanzetti case, Suosso’s Lane. As a contributing editor for the online poetry journal, Verse-Virtual, his poems appear regularly on that site. They have also appeared in Every Day Poet, Off The Coast, Houseboat, Yellow Chair Review and other journals. His chapbook Gardeners Do It With Their Hands Dirty (Finishing Line Press) was published in May 2017.