I’m continuing to join in with Kate Motaung’s online discussion group On Being a Writer, which is based on Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig’s book On being a writer: 12 simple steps for a writing life that lasts.
Today’s (penultimate) prompt is rest, and asks us to discuss our idea of a perfect day of rest/struggles we have with resting/the link between rest and productivity.
I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, as this is fundamental for my ability to write anything worth reading: I can’t write if I’m not in a ‘good place’ mentally.
For me, this generally means being free of negative thoughts and overwhelm. This doesn’t mean that I simply need a rest (because there I would find peace); rather it means that I’m facing trauma symptoms (flashbacks/insomnia etc) and that these are interfering with my ability to relax/rest and my mental processing.
I’ve gone through a whole multi-stage process of teaching myself how to learn to be ‘off guard’ (domestic violence tends to make you ultra-vigilant) and – after a long while – I seem to have come out of this process equipped with tactics that help me rest, because they reign in my thoughts and help me calm my mind.
I love these words from Victor Frankl….”Between stimulus and response there’s a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom”.
I love these words because I’m a great believer in the idea that if we can learn to control our minds then we can gain better control of our lives. By consciously directing our thoughts, we become “masters of our fate” as the wonderful poem says.
For me, this process of understanding has meant that I’ve been able to overcome not only very difficult and dangerous personal situations (and their psychological/emotional aftermath) but, also, that I’ve learnt tools and techniques that can be usefully extrapolated to other areas of my life.
Like my writing life.
It’s kind of ritualistic, actually, my resting process, but I’ve found that my words can’t spill out if I’m not full to the brim with inspiration. If my mind’s not clear, there’s no space for things that inspire me, no room for creative thinking.
Once my mind’s clear I can notice and drink in the beauty around me and be inspired by it and then I can write. I can reach the bottom of that well where all the good stuff lies, instead of floundering around in the upper, empty, waters.
I need a clear mind (free of tension/stress) to be able to focus my creativity and to enter my zone of flow for my writing. Trying to do it any other way simply doesn’t work for me.
This causes practical difficulties, but I’ve found that by taking time to clear my mind, through meditation, I’m able to rest and then I’m ready to write.
If I try to skip the necessary preamble to sitting down and writing, I might save myself an hour or so but it’s almost certain that I won’t produce anything of worth that day.
I’ve found there are no short-cuts to reaching my ‘flow zone’, unfortunately.
How about you? I’d love to hear about your resting/writing processes and how they interact/input each other…