On being a writer – making space

I’m joining in with Kate Motaung’s online discussion On Being a Writer, running from 17th August until 23rd September. It’s a discussion based on Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig’s book On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts. Discussion prompts will be posted twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays, and the topic of today’s discussion is ‘Arrange’: how do we arrange our time/space to make room for our writing?

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When I think about arranging for my writing, it’s my mental space that concerns me. As with anything in life, we can’t really enjoy writing, get much out of the time we put in to it, or actually even put our best in to it, if we’re not ‘in a good place’ mentally.

I carve out time by waking early and ignoring the whole entire world (aka “anything that requires WiFi”) until I’ve sat for thirty minutes and written. Yes, I’ll inevitably face the whole “I’ve got writers block”/”Don’t know what to write”/”Oh my, it’s terrible” charade, but knowing my littles will be up and around in less than an hour (and I still need to make breakfast/shower/organise a million ‘preliminary’ work matters) is a great motivator and, better than this, a great focuser. Knowing I have thirty minutes to deliver helps focus my mind and stops procrastination.

I know if I don’t write for thirty minutes, that’s literally it, I won’t have time again that day and I’ll go to bed knowing I failed myself. So, I’ve organised my schedule to gift myself this thirty minute slot. It’s done during that thirty minutes or it’s not done at all that day.

What I’ve noticed, however, even when I set in motion what was supposed to be my ‘fail proof’ plan for getting the words out of my head and on to paper (around a year ago), is that sometimes I simply can’t write. Because I’m in a bad place mentally. [Side note: I’m a domestic abuse survivor; it’s all very recent and very raw and I do have problems with the traumatic memories, which do, in a very real manner, affect my day-to-day functioning].

So, when I realised this (it’d be labelled “Helen vs. The Trauma” in one of those melodramatic silent movies!), I began to search for something that would calm my mind. And I found meditation. It’s helped me ‘calm the beast’ of runaway thoughts and negativity and helped restore my emotional well-being (I wrote more about this here).

Now, when I know I’m going to have a hard time concentrating, I do a quick few-minute long meditation and that resets my mind, allowing me to find the mental space I need to be able to write. The few minutes investment is more than worth it as I know I’ll be going in to my thirty minute writing session with a fresh and clear mind.

As much as my physical space (woe betide anyone who messes with my writing desk or my work desk!), I cannot write without the mental space I need.

For me, that’s the key to reaching that evasive place where my authentic voice resides.

[Just wanted to say a quick, but massive and heartfelt thanks to Kate and to all the ladies who are joining in this discussion; it’s been marvellous – life-giving – to have ‘met’ so many of you and to have found the level of openness, support and trust amongst you ladies. Thank you].

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12 thoughts on “On being a writer – making space

  1. Tara says:

    I feel the same way about this group and the discussion too! So thankful for everyone who is a part of it. I agree mental space is important in writing.

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  2. Helen, given what you’ve been through, that you have the courage to step out and ‘write out loud’ is nothing short of heroic. I know something of domestic abuse (from my childhood), and I’m very well acquainted with combat trauma.

    I cannot tell you of the depth and breadth of my admiration. There are simply not the words.

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  3. Helen! This is so true! If I feel not “mentally there” for writing it doesn’t work out so well. Struggled with some writing insecurity for about a month this summer which led to writers block. I have nothing to write about!!! (how I felt) Proud of you for making space in your head to be creative and write. And whew….I need training on getting up early. It IS so hard for me.

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Heather….join in the discussion group (as much commitment as you can manage/are comfortable with)…it’s been eye-opening and I’ve found such support there…..it’s definitely helped me already….(getting up early is the thing that works for me; perhaps you’re a ‘I’ll pop to the park/library (wherever) after work and that’s my dedicated writing time’ kind of girl?!)….

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  4. Gabriele says:

    I am so impressed that you can change your mental place. Inspiration for me…

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Gabriele, I’ve found meditation has worked absolute wonders for me. I’ve also just discovered the world of ‘neurolinguistic programming’ (NLP) and am really hopeful that it’s something that will help with my trauma memories. I’ve been reading and reading about it for a while now and have done some exercises which have helped profoundly.

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  5. Liane says:

    I agree with so much of this post! If I’m not ‘there’ mentally then it’s just not happening. Such an inspiring post 🙂

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  6. Carly says:

    Sorry it’s taken me so long to read your post but I think it’s great! It’s great that you find a way to fit in writing and prioritise it in the midst of everything else and I find it really helpful to hear what works for other people. Being in the right place mentally is so important too.

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Carly, it’s been *so* great reading everyone else’s posts/comments….I feel I’ve learnt *so much*! Thanks a lot for taking the time to comment!

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