How Meditation Can Help When Writing About Emotional Events

a person laying on the ground in sorrowAre you ever apprehensive before writing about a painful emotional scene in your memoir? Taking a deep dive into a difficult memory can often take us right back to that time as if we’re reliving the moment. Although this makes for great descriptive writing, when writing something troubling or traumatic, we can viscerally re-experience our sadness, fear, despair, and rage. Sometimes it leaves us reeling.

It’s important to keep the emotional body safe when diving into a more intense scene. How do we accomplish this task—telling our story, without feeling re-traumatized by the telling?

One of the best ways I’ve found is with meditation. It allows you to center yourself, focus on your breathing and enter a state of calm mind and body. Meditation helps shift the nervous system out of the fight or flight response that gets activated during trauma and stress. By doing a short meditation before and after writing an emotional scene, you create a safe space in which to write.

For an example of a meditation you can use, click the link or read the transcription below.

 

Close your eyes. Bring your attention to your breath, the simple rhythm of in and out, in and out. Feel the air entering and exiting your nose. Sense as each inhale and exhale becomes smoother and longer. Rest deeply in the pauses between your in-breath and out-breath. Notice, as your breath slows, your heart beats slower. As your heart softens, your mind becomes quiet and tranquil, like a calm lake on a windless day.

From this relaxed state of body and mind, envision a warm, golden light above the crown of your head. Imagine that light entering your body through the top of your head, bringing softness to your face. Feel the muscles of your forehead, eyes, cheeks, nose and jaw release and let go. Sense the warmth of the golden light moving down your neck and into your shoulders, rolling down your arms to the tips of your fingers. Become aware of the light filling the space in your chest, caressing your heart and creating a safe space to feel. Let the golden illumination shine down, pooling in your lower belly, then gently flowing down your legs, relaxing the muscles of your thighs, shins, and calves. As it reaches your feet, embrace complete relaxation. Float in a sea of comfort and peace.

Rest in this peaceful stillness with your eyes remaining gently closed. Then draw your inner gaze slightly inward and upward to the space just between and slightly above your eyebrows. Invite an image to form in your mind. An image of a place where you’ve felt entirely serene, safe and protected. Remember its colors, hear the sounds, notice the texture of the surface supporting you. Sense the temperature of the air around you, smell the aromas. Touch and feel your environment with your mind. Allow this place of secure refuge to fill you with a sense of protection and peace, knowing deep in your core that you are safe.

Connect this profound level of safety to a place deep in your heart. Allow this calming sense of protection to anchor you in a space of security as you begin to contemplate the emotional scene you’ll be writing. As memories or intense emotions arise, take special care to keep your body comfortable and relaxed, breathing slowly, in, out, in, out. Let this stable state of Being you’ve cultivated through this meditation be your foundation—a safe harbor to rest amidst any stormy emotions that emerge. When you feel ready to transcribe your memories into powerful words on the page, slowly open your eyes and begin to write.

****

After writing your scene, check back in with your body and mind. Notice any sensations or vibrations that may need soothing. If you feel activated in any way, close your eyes and repeat the body scan and meditation. Or you may simply focus on your breath until your mind, body, and heart feel at peace again.

Using these breathwork and meditation techniques can help you maintain a sense of equanimity and peaceful awareness when writing difficult emotional scenes. Once you’ve tried this meditation, please leave your comments and share your experience.

 

A photo of Kimberly JoyKimberly Joy writes to share messages that uplift and inspire. Her pieces encourage and provide new ways of perceiving the world and life’s experiences. Her background as a Physical Therapist, Restorative Yoga Teacher and Guided Meditation Specialist gives her a deep understanding of the mind-body connection. She loves to share this wisdom in hopes of assisting others on their journeys of health, healing, and inner peace. You can find more of her writing at MessagesfromJoy.org

 

Photo Credit: Kimberly Joy and Žygimantas Dukauskas on Unsplash

Stuck!

Old fashioned image of a woman who is stuckI’m stuck in rhyming couplets! My verses won’t flow free.

Poetic devices, please: won’t you rescue me?

 

Alliteration is elusive.  She shuns my shriek and shout.

Symbolism opens a window, so why can’t I climb out?

 

Consonance couldn’t care less ‘bout my stress.

Yes, I’ve tried Similes.  They’re as good as useless.

 

I manage to catch Assonance as she prances past;

Man, that fancy Assonance can prance away fast!

 

Onomatopaeia bangs the bars, clangs and clatters the lock,

Then skips away, indifferent as the ticking of my clock.

 

I’ve got metaphors by the boatload, so why’s this ship still sinking?

Imagery by the great-garlic-truckload; still, my payload sits here, stinking.

 

Illusion’s no help, clearly—a shy guy, gone at a glance.

Hyperbole to the rescue? Not a one in a trillion chance.

 

Personification?  Please see above.  It’s there, abundantly.

In fact, are these couplets taunting me?  I think you’d call that, “Irony.”

 

My friend Free Verse has heard enough.  She frowns an artful frown,

Lays a cool hand over mine, and urges, “Put. The devices. Down.”

 

“Jettison convention! Ditch cliché! Find a more sophisticated way.

Rhyming couplets? Ridiculous! All rhyming, really, is passé!”

 

A Celtic laugh comes rollicking in. Limerick’s been eavesdroppin’!

Irish eyes roll to the heavens, as he snorts through his grin:

 

“Sophistication! Bah! A tired old rumor!”

“Write how you like, lass! Better yet, write with humor.”

 

Konnichiwa!” chimes a sweet voice anew.

Tell us, Haiku! What is your point of view?

 

“A Poem is a playground. It’s structure, for playing in.

Think of it as a promise, please—not as a prison.”

 

And with a “domo arigato” to graceful Haiku

The doors finally opened, and our caged poet flew!

 

Never again to feel stuck rhyming, or confined to a timing

Free instead to stick with, what for her, will ring out true.

 

Jen Laffler, poetJen Laffler is an author and poet.  Her first children’s book, J is for Jitterbug: A Fanciful Animal Alphabet, was published in 2016 (JALG, Ink).  Her current projects are a children’s board book entitled What Hairdo Does Your Hair Do?, and the children’s poetry collection Poem Seeds & Fine Messes.  Jen lives in Encinitas, California with her husband and three young daughters. She shares her books, poems, and message that there’s genius in each and every one of us, with school groups throughout California.  Jen’s poetic heroes? W. Shakespeare, S. Silverstein, and T. Shakur.  Connect with Jen on Facebook or on her website, Just A Genius, Ink.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/1721918/ and Jen Laffler

Getting Present with Technology – Five Online Resources to Enliven and Inspire the Muse

A Tibetan singing bowl for meditationA while back an email came across my desk that transformed my day.  It was Marni Freedman’s San Diego Writers Newsletter and it invited her readers to reflect on writing for joy.

Just seeing the words “Writing for Joy (Just Joy)” made me smile. I read her post and remembered past years when the greatest self-care I could do for myself was to go out and get a new journal and get very present recording life around me. 

Writing as Meditation

So, I heated a cup of tea and spontaneously wrote about writing for joy. I wrote that writing has long been my spiritual compass, bringing me back to center, and encouraging me to investigate not only the external world but also my inner workings—that writing is a platform for deep spiritual inquiry.  I noted that writing, at its best, is about paying attention. It’s a meditation, of sorts, that enlivens my being and encourages me to look at the world with fresh eyes.

Yes. Writing can be all this for me. And Marni’s email got me there.

But writing, too, can easily end up on my “to do” list.  It can morph into stress about deadlines and worries about getting it right. When this happens, the writing doesn’t flow as easily. I think too much and write too little.

Inspire the Muse

This is when it’s time for an intervention. It’s time to stop and listen—to dip into the source and re-inspire the muse.

This might mean inviting a little unstructured time out in nature—such as going for a gentle walk or sitting under a tree.  Or doing something that nonsensically soothes my soul, like wandering through a thrift store.

But, equally often these days it means turning to my computer or smartphone. I know. It seems counter-intuitive to turn to a device instead of nature for solace, but in this day and age, it’s more than possible.  There are technology-driven resources that can enliven our soul—resources that bring us back in touch with the source, back in touch with Joy—like Marni’s emailed newsletter.

My Favorite Awareness Tools

So today, I thought I would share a handful of my favorite awareness tools—ones that take advantage of today’s technology, but instead of spinning me up, they help me stay centered. None of these require much time or any money.  They are free and available right now.

1.  The Insight Timer app:

 I have long appreciated and talked about the benefits of meditating with a timer. At its base, it is a simple app that allows you to set a timer when you meditate. A gentle gong signals the beginning and end of the meditation. It’s wonderful and you get a snapshot of all the other people across the world who are meditating with you at that moment.  “You have just meditated with 3,456 people.” It might say. It’s remarkably reassuring to feel that connection. And, Insight timer has so much more going on, if you dig a little deeper, including over 8,000 guided meditations! This is a jewel. I use it almost every day. https://insighttimer.com

2. Guided Meditations:

As I mentioned above, the insight timer has an amazing collection of guided meditations.  I have tried some of them, but I prefer to listen to guided meditations from some of my favorite teachers.  It isn’t hard at all to find these on YouTube through a simple search. Below, are links to a few short wonderful meditations by teachers I deeply respect and resonate with:

3. Virtual Meditation:

It is a powerful thing to meditate with a group of people. Sadly, it can be hard to do. My husband and I have begun participating in 30-minute virtual meditations through Cheri Huber’s Living Compassion. The process is simple and free. There are a lot of different time options. We participate in the 7 am PST calls Sunday through Thursday. You call into a number and sit on the line in silence with others until the bell rings.

At the start of the meditation a “Daily recollection” is read and participants are encouraged to say it aloud too. (You can download it from her website.) At the end of the sitting, there is a short invitation of something to reflect on for that day. So simple. So good. Cheri Huber is a Zen Buddhist Monk with a Zen Monastery Peace Center in Murphy’s, CA. But she is also a prolific writer. Check out her book as a starter “There is Nothing Wrong with You.” She also has mastered the art of using technology to benefit the Sangha at large.  Virtual Meditation is just one of such offerings. I will mention others below. https://www.livingcompassion.org/virtual-meditation-groups

4. Daily Peace Quotes or Practice Everywhere Tweets 

Cheri Huber also has a mailing list where you can sign up for a daily peace quote.  I really love this! Every weekday morning there is a peace quote waiting for me. I get up make coffee, bring it back to the bedroom and then read it aloud to my hubby before joining the virtual meditation. It’s really sweet.   https://www.livingcompassion.org/mailinglists

Cheri Huber also has a twitter program where you can receive daily practice reminder tweets through Twitter. http://www.livingcompassion.org/tweets

5. Facebook Groups 

Most everyone knows about Facebook, but I have newly discovered Facebook Groups.  These are especially great for writers who know their niche market. You can use targeted Facebook Groups to reach a larger audience and grow your platform.  A friend of mine recently wrote a little book called “Memories from My Log Book: A Bush Pilot’s Story.” He was new to Facebook but started a page to help promote his book. The author reached out to Facebook Groups around the world who were interested in piloting.

He was astonished to see his book skyrocket in mere weeks. He was getting contacted daily by hundreds of people! Of Equal importance, Facebook Groups help us play with like-minded people—to be part of targeted communities. Some of the groups I’ve joined recently have stimulated interesting conversations that have bled directly into my writing.

HootSuite has a nice blog on the subject: https://blog.hootsuite.com/facebook-groups-business/.  

Please comment if you use any other apps enlivenment and inspiration. I’m always interested in hearing what works for my fellow writers.

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/185211/

What to Do When You Have Too Many Good Ideas

a large lightbulbThere was a pivotal moment in my writing life when suddenly I gained confidence in my words. I went from having one I-don’t-know-maybe-this-is-kind-of-a-good idea to having constant oh-my-gosh-I-think-this-is-the-next-great idea(s). It’s like uncovering buried treasure; most of it is gold coins that are exciting yet equal in merit, and a few of them are shiny, precious gemstones you want to hide for fear everyone will steal them away from you.

Now, of those precious gemstones, you get to covet and nurture just one. At least, that’s what seems to be the consensus from the pros on how to get a good (or great) book written. So what do you do with all those other gems?

If you’ve read Big Magic, you know about Elizabeth Gilbert’s “you snooze, you lose” theory: if you sit on an idea for too long, it’s not going to wait for you. It’s going to float back up into the ether and find someone else worthy of its presence.

Depressing, right?!

But working on two (or more) books at a time is overwhelming, even just to think about.

And then there’s the inevitable pitfall of any writing endeavor: fleeting inspiration. At some point, no matter how much you love your idea, the self-doubt creeps in—or worse, writer’s block.  And then those other gems looks shiny and new compared to your current smudged and scratched gem.

Nurturing More than One Idea

So how do you reconcile all these factors without giving up on your current project, ending up with several uncompleted projects, or biting off more than you can chew?

First, I think it’s important to commit to that first project wholeheartedly. As long as it’s working, as long as you believe in it, as long as it was the project that felt most right to bring forth into the world—even if in this very moment you are having doubts—then you need to finish it.

That being said, the psychology of writing is no walk in the park. At best it’s a long, wandering hike through a mountainous forest whose many paths are overgrown with tree roots and muddy impasses. The point is, there are going to be days or weeks—or even months—where you just can’t work on that main project. Be it writer’s block, lack of inspiration, or a roadblock you need to work through just by thinking instead of putting words on the page, that day will come. And when it does, these other gems get their moment to shine.

I’m not talking about jumping ship.

I’m talking about nurturing.

Your idea can’t go to someone else if you continue to pay it attention once in a while.

Giving Your Ideas Loving Attention

Depending on the project, this could be as simple as research; reading a specific book, doing an interview, or online searches for a topic. This could also mean beginning an outline to work through plot or developing characters. The distinction is that you are not jumping head first into a second endeavor while the first is still trying to make its way into the world. You are simply setting aside some headspace or free time to let that gem know it’s still important to you.

It could be once a week, once a month, or even once a year. But this second (or third, or fourth) idea becomes a security blanket, writer’s block therapy, or a spark of inspiration so that you may continue on your path of getting the first project done. And then, when you do, that next project already has a sprouting seed from which you can work.

And the best part? The cycle can continue indefinitely!

 

Melissa Bloom is a writer, writing coach, and certified yoga instructor who is passionate about exploring the connection between productivity and wellness. As the founder and director of the Mindful Writer, Melissa has developed targeted writing tools and techniques that help people develop a sustainable writing practice to accomplish their writing goals without burning out. Melissa has a background in film, animation, and creative writing. She travels often, learns daily, and attends workshops, trainings, and conferences in a continued effort to hone the crafts of writing and living well.

Shhh, It’s Flowing…

As writers, we read a lot about those times when we’re all froze up. Writer’s block, brain cement, inner or outer critic sabotage.  In an earlier post, I called it Backstroking Through Peanut Butter. Call it what you will, the struggle is real. With all the obstacles we writers face, it’s amazing we can progress at all.

Until recently, I was in a writing slump for over a year. Any progress I made during that time was the result of Herculean effort. Square marbles were clunking around in my brain. Nothing was rolling anywhere.

But this post isn’t about that. It’s about those times when it’s all working. A tail wind is speeding you toward your destination. You’re hitting green lights all the way. The only hindrance to project completion is how fast you can type, the number of hours in a day, eating and other distracting bodily requirements.

Don’t you love it when this happens? A wide open road. The spigot is cranked as far left as it will go and the plot is spraying out of you. Awkward moments transform to smooth. Sure, you’ll still need to revise later, but what you’re creating feels like it won’t require 75 rewrites because, in moments like these, you’re spinning gold.

Sometimes these flashes are fleeting or few and far between. But when they land, mmm, savor every moment. I’m in one right now, and I find myself thinking, what did I eat, drink, hear, and/or experience that dropped me into this perfect frame of mind to get this done? Was it the eclipse? Was it that dinner with my aunt? Did a (wonky, half-baked) headstand in yoga class jog something loose? What granted me the freedom to move ahead, to leap frog toward project completion? And how do I recreate this exact space the next time inspiration abandons me, as it undoubtedly will?

Don’t project, I tell myself. Sit. Type! Phone, down. News, off. Eat fast, sleep less. Capitalize on this rare instant when it feels like it’s writing itself. Don’t distract it! Keep the laptop charged. Save all work to the cloud. This is the magic hour. Don’t self-sabotage. Stay in it.

Shhh, it’s flowing…

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/fire-hydrant-children-water-summer-1972971/

Jackhammer — By Michelle Saint Germain, Guest Blogger for The Feisty Writer

a man jackhammering concreteI walked across the cul-de-sac to the single story house across from us.  I stepped past the demolished driveway, over the walkway reduced to rubble, and up to the front door.  I rang the bell, twice.  I wasn’t sure if the occupants would hear it over the noise of the jackhammers.

A good-looking guy in his late 20s answered the door.  As he stepped out of the house down to the dirt where the stoop had been, he introduced himself.

“Hi, I’m Mitch.”

Someone shouted from inside, “Honey, close the door!”

“Oh, yeah,” he said, pulling the front door shut behind him.

“Hi, I’m Michelle,” I said.

“Rachel?” he asked, over the noise from the construction.

“Michelle,” I said louder.

“Okay, gotcha.”

“When will this construction be over do you think?”

Mitch hesitated.  “I’m not sure.”

“I’m asking because,” and here I take a breath, “I’m a writer.  This jackhammering has been going on for at least a week.  Over there on the second floor,” I waved in the direction of my house, “is my office.  I can’t open the windows, and even with the windows shut the noise is deafening.”

“Well, it’s the best way to excavate all this,” Matt said as he swept his hand across the front of his large, pie-shaped lot.

“It wouldn’t be so bad if I knew when it would stop,” I said.  “In fact, it did seem to have stopped for a day or two, but then it started up again.”

“Oh, at first we just planned to do the walkway and the front step, but then we added the driveway.  Then we decided to put in new landscaping, and that meant a new sprinkler system, too.  Anyhow, what do you want them to do, use shovels?”

“Couldn’t you get one of those little Bobcat excavation things, whatchamacallits, backhoes?”

“I don’t know; I’d have to ask the foreman.”  Mitch frowned.

“Can’t you at least let me know, is it going to be another day, another week, or what?”

“Do you think we like this?” Mitch said, changing to a more aggressive response.

Don’t tell me how bad you have it, I thought.

“We have a three-week old baby.”

Poor timing.

“Well, if you could just let me know when you think this crew will be finished, I’d appreciate it,” I replied.

Mitch looked left and right, as if he didn’t want to be overheard giving away state secrets.  “Don’t quote me on this, but we’re hoping to pour concrete next Friday.”

Today was Saturday.  At least another four days of teeth-rattling noise.

“Ok, thanks,” I said, turning to go.

“Bye,” Mitch said as he went inside.

As I walked back to my house, I realized that for the first time I had uttered those words:  I am a writer.  I picked up my step, noticing the bright blue sky, and wished I could whistle.

photo of the authorAbout Michelle: After a 35-year career in university teaching, I decided to try my hand at creative non-fiction. It’s been a tough switch but after three years I feel I’m making good progress.  My other activities include riding my bicycle about 50 miles a week; working out in the gym, swimming, and yoga; and taking my new puppy, Kiah, on long walks.  I working on a memoir about overcoming a lifetime of depression and I’ve taken up meditation to help me sort things out.  At age 69, I look forward to the years I have left to be filled with peace and harmony.

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/construction-jackhammer-equipment-679973/

How To Turn Your Political Angst into Writing Gold

A man and his son holding a sign that says Make America Think AgainI wish I wasn’t writing about politics right now, but The Clown In Chief isn’t giving me much of a choice, now is he? Reason #4,763 to poke another rusty pin into my tiny-yet-somehow-bigly voodoo doll: I want to write about things I love, like un-stale tortilla chips, excellent haircuts, the unrelenting cuteness of my cats, and the dizzying amazement I feel about my kids (except when they fight plus the other times I want to post them on Craigslist), but I can’t, because The Grand Poobah of Doofusness is relentless.

*Big sigh*

Speaking of (or sigh-ing of?), are you big-sighing as much as me these days?

Venezuela, big sigh.

North Korea, giant petrified sigh.

Charlottesville, gargantuan tear-filled sigh.

I can’t friggin’ write. I’m too morose about it all. And too annoyed that I’ve been rendered morose by a reality TV shyster whose evil heart casts such a malevolent and slimy shadow over every corner of our world.

I know I said in this earlier post that “if we survive his reign, he may end up being a gift to us all.” But today, I find the Pollyanna-Me-of-Yesterday clueless, annoying, and badly in need of a slug to the stomach.

Given all of that, I will end on a positive note, because DNA is weird and I am incapable of leaving people in darkness and tumult, even if that’s where my heart resides. Here is one thing I know for sure: we must take decisive action now, in whatever form we can. My form is writing, and if you’re reading this, yours probably is too. Writing prompts are good for people like us—they help us further our craft—and, especially, in this case, they take us to places we may not have otherwise gone.

So here’s your prompt du jour: write a story about a person who somehow lands a job they are not remotely qualified for or capable of handling and one instance where (s)he “yugely” botches it up.

We know one example of this, all too well, or rather, all too inadequately. The novel Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart rocks this theme too. Steve Carell in The Office? Nails it. Me singing karaoke fits it like a glove. 30 Rock, Parks and Rec., a lot of great TV operates in this realm.

Where else do you come across this in your life? Write it, share it, allow it to further your craft. Create at least a smidge of good from all this bad. Remember, we are the recorders of our times. We are most essential during moments like these, crucial to prevent history from repeating itself. Let’s make sure, for the sake of our world, that we are the best at what we do, or at least, the best we can be.

Photo by Jose Moreno on Unsplash

Showing Up Is Half the Battle: Ways to Utilize Your Writing Critique Group

a cement hand supporting a tree branchIn a previous post, I explained why you should have a writing critique group, where to find people who resonate with you, and even how to get started. At the time, my critique group had been going strong for about a year, each of us submitting chapters weekly and spending Sunday mornings analyzing them page-by-page. But this year the worst happened—we all got busy.

That’s not to say we stopped writing. But for different reasons, each of us hit a rut in our communal writing groove. My first partner realized he could finish his first draft sooner if he wrote stream of conscious, without fixing the pages for us to read. My other partner started a new project, which meant going back to the outlining and brainstorming phase for quite a while. And as for me, I resisted at first. I kept submitting until I reached a chapter that required me to do some research for world-building. For several Sundays, I showed up to our chat discouraged that I hadn’t made any page-count progress. But when I shared what I had discovered, it led to a productive conversation about what could happen next in my story.

It was then I realized we were onto something. Maybe critiquing didn’t necessarily mean analyzing paragraphs of writing. Maybe our group was more than that—a writer’s support system ready for whatever hurdles stood in the way of completing our projects.

Since then, my critique group has become a check-in space—a weekly powwow where the goal is to discuss where we are, both in writing and in life. And though our conversations involve fewer grammar lessons and technical insights than last year, we have each expanded our writing strategies and techniques. And most importantly, no matter how many words we actually write, we feel like we’re making progress.

So next time you’re pressed for time and can’t meet your critique group’s submission deadline, keep in mind that you have other avenues of discussion. Here are some ideas of what to talk about when you don’t have pages to show:

  • Where your story’s headed next
  • A scene or chapter’s purpose
  • Who your characters are, delving into their wants and fears, and how they play into the larger framework of your story
  • World-building ideas, your latest research, or potential interview subjects to aid in research
  • Brainstorming how to get out of a plot hole
  • Your writing goals and how to hit your next deadline
  • Strategies for finding more time in the week to write
  • A vent session about how busy you are and why you haven’t typed a single word in the past week

As you can see, potential topics are plentiful!

While it may sound silly or even seem like a waste of time to use your critique group in this way, it ensures your writing routine stays consistent. And with consistency comes growth—improving not just what’s already on the page, but also how it gets there.  

Melissa Bloom is a writer, writing coach, and certified yoga instructor who is passionate about exploring the connection between productivity and wellness. As the founder and director of the Mindful Writer, Melissa has developed targeted writing tools and techniques that help people develop a sustainable writing practice to accomplish their writing goals without burning out. Melissa has a background in film, animation, and creative writing. She travels often, learns daily, and attends workshops, trainings, and conferences in a continued effort to hone the crafts of writing and living well.

Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

Writing Uninspired: Three Tools for Novel Completion

A ditch in a green field with cows grazing around itEarlier this year I attended the first stop of Neil Gaiman’s book tour for Norse Mythology. I had no idea what to expect and, as it turns out, he had only some idea of what he was going to do. He walked onto the stage to an unassuming, spotlighted podium and began speaking in his whimsical British voice about how he hasn’t done “one of these” in a while. In his hands were small slips of paper where audience members wrote questions before the show. And in between talking and reading short stories, he answered a few, one of which was:

How do you stay inspired?

Without missing a beat, he said that he doesn’t stay inspired. That he wished he could, but that inspiration lasts for about the first twenty pages of writing a book and the rest is like digging a really long ditch.

Everyone laughed. I laughed too. But I also felt this weight lift off my chest; a confirmation that inspiration is fleeting. It fills you up like a Thanksgiving Day parade and then leaves you with the remnants of confetti and a tryptophan coma.

I think about Neil’s words every time I sit down to continue digging my own ditch. And yet some days, I wonder if the key is simply this: one shovel full at a time. Some days, I can’t help but look toward the end of a long expanse of dirt and think, “Why am I not there yet?”

Each morning I wake up with this source of energy coursing through me and sometimes it gets spent before I sit down to write. Some days it bursts out of me and latches onto the first thing—or the necessary thing—of the day. Before I know it, the day is gone, the page is blank, and my expectations spin into an inner pressure that builds all night and into the next day.

And when I pick up the shovel to keep digging, the un-dug part of the ditch appears so much longer. Instead of excitement that I will get there, I feel dread that I am not there.

What, then, is the key to getting to the end? Or, rather, what’s stopping us?

Lately, I’ve been keeping track of what’s most important to writing productivity. Three tools in the writing arsenal that, when in perfect balance, can bring us steadily closer to the end of the ditch: energy, time, and expectation.

Energy: The right amount of energy is almost as good as inspiration. It’s brainpower and word fuel. It keeps the pen moving or the fingers typing. It nurtures the necessary headspace for creative thinking. But without it, our motivation and ideas sputter out of us like the last squirt of ketchup in the bottle.

Time: Time management is vital for accomplishing any endeavor. It doesn’t have to mean writing at the same time or for the same duration every day (heck, for me sometimes it means staring at a computer screen for an hour), but if you don’t meet the page, your words can never get there.

Expectation: Expectation is the wild card of writing tools. It is woven into all of our writing goals and deadlines, self-imposed or otherwise. Low expectations that are exceeded can lead to a boost in energy or inspiration; high expectations that aren’t met can lead to stunted creativity and self-pressure.

Mitigating that self-pressure is the ultimate key to getting to the end of the ditch.

Allow for a dip in energy, a lack of routine, or squandered expectations. Because if, at the end of the day, you haven’t written a word, but you go to bed okay with that fact, you will wake up excited about your project instead of turning it into just another chore on the list.

So be aware of how your energy, time, and expectations interact. Experiment with when and how long you write. Experiment with different kinds of goals—chapters, word-count, even stream of consciousness journaling. Eventually, the right combination for you will emerge. And in the meantime, remember: every word counts!

Melissa Bloom is a writer, writing coach, and certified yoga instructor who is passionate about exploring the connection between productivity and wellness. As the founder and director of the Mindful Writer, Melissa has developed targeted writing tools and techniques that help people develop a sustainable writing practice to accomplish their writing goals without burning out. Melissa has a background in film, animation, and creative writing. She travels often, learns daily, and attends workshops, trainings, and conferences in a continued effort to hone the crafts of writing and living well.

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/cow-cows-pasture-landscape-whey-1940971/

Writing Through Trump

Salatka-writing through trump-kayle-kaupanger-200964Preposterous. Unconscionable. Diabolical.

To call him childish insults young humans everywhere.

You know who I’m talking about.

His audacity takes my breath away. He also takes my sleep. And my words.

I, like many of you, am suffering from TIFPS, or Trump-Induced Frozen Pen Syndrome. My words have become a casualty of this inconceivable nightmare-cum-truth. Because it feels like an error in the order of the universe! Like we were heading, albeit upstream, toward a beautiful, self-realized place when suddenly, our canoe flipped and we are now sputtering and speeding toward a massive waterfall! Where giant hungry piranhas await us at the bottom! And even if we can somehow kick them away, the plunge pool is comprised of skin-eating acid and tall shards of glass! I fear we might be dusted.

Yet, something niggles at my brain. There must be a reason, the something whispers. A force like him doesn’t just pop onto the global stage without carting a larger lesson, like a dingleberry tangled into his comb-over.

What good can come of this new reality, where environment-haters are entrusted with our environment? Where public school-haters are entrusted with our public schools? What is the lesson here? I wonder these things as my fingers idle, frozen above the keyboard and my pen lies arrested, poised over paper.

As a Feisty Contributor and Editor, I also wonder how this new world order affects us, our tribe, the scribes of our times. Because we, as the world’s storytellers, must not freeze. Now, more than ever, the world needs us.

How do we combat TIFPS and continue to do the job the universe assigned to us? We cannot lose our words, our voice, the tool that wields the most power!

Here is one idea: let’s use the Apricot Aberration to make us better writers. Because we almost can’t get better fodder. He can be our tangerine-hued, frowny-faced writing prompt. Here are a few questions to ask ourselves to get unstuck:

  1. What words describe how he makes me feel? *
  2. What does this look like? Be specific. (And by specific, I don’t mean truthful. Use alternative facts at will.) *
  3. What is the worst case scenario? Be specific. *
  4. How can I combat this scenario? *

We witness him suck power on a daily basis as though he just rolled out from ten days under a dusty rock and straight into a 7-11 on 7-11, a.k.a., Free Slurpee Day. Sure, he can slurp all he wants, but he will not suck our power.

We must write through his reign so the world knows how we survived. We must capture this moment in time by observing, with our words, the details, the heartbreaks, and the humanity. When was the moment I took a stand? Here is what it looked like. When did I give up? Because I felt like it was too big and I was too small. When did I go from powerless to powerful? Write down all of this. Every speck.

Or maybe you aren’t there yet. You are still frozen, powerless, petrified. We get that, too, and you are not alone. But if you were to take a stand, what would you want that stand to look like? Write that down. If we are able to survive his regime, he may end up being a gift to us all. A majestic awakening. A monumental call for truth, understanding, and above all, compassion. For that to happen, we will need to remember what this time looked like. What this felt, smelled, and sounded like. We need us.

* My answers:

1) I feel powerless, fearful, despondent.

2) I stop standing up for myself at work and at home with my family because it does no good. Why expend the energy? I always lose anyway. I focus on my quilting instead. But my quilt scenes are getting weirder and angrier.

3) We go to war with nations all over the world simultaneously and are immediately close to perishing, every last one of us evaporating into a fungus-shaped cloud.

4) I contact an amazing scientist in Japan who went to my quilting camp in 8th grade. She has identified an enzyme which dissolves both plastic and rubber. With the help of some unsuspicious individuals, boom, all warplanes are grounded. We, as a nation, are forced to return to diplomacy.

 

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/collections/141077/american-political?photo=ihH2ztuBTOs