On Being a Writer: Rest

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.

Here goes…

Rest1

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.

Rest2

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.

Rest3

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.

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.

Rest-4

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…

Helen xxx

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22 thoughts on “On Being a Writer: Rest

  1. Carolyn says:

    I am so sorry you have had to experience the trauma that you have but am filled with admiration that you have been able to find a way to grow strong again and to allow your creative spirit to flourish. Your words reminded me of something Brené Brown said on the Luz Gilbert podcast – she can’t write about anything until she has processed it herself, come to some sort of resolution in her own mind about the experiences she has been through.
    I agree that the mind needs to have space to be able to access inspiration. Exercise and meditation are great for mind clearing. I think writing ‘morning pages’ as discussed in The Artist’s away are also a good way to shift random thoughts out onto the page to free up thinking space. I think in an ideal world I’d start the day with morning pages, a walk and then meditation. Haven’t quite got there yet!

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Hia Carolyn, well, you know “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and all that….definitely agree with Liz Gilbert on that point….but would add that, for me, writing is definitely part of the processing itself (thankfully)….as you say, there’s nothing as good as journalling to clear your mind….[and, oh goodness, I’m totally not ‘there’ yet either but am making a concerted effort to take care of myself….(‘parents put your masks on first’ and all that…]…Helen xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sian says:

    The most important thing I need for rest is complete quiet. I don’ mean at night, I mean during the day as a way of clearing my head. I love my family dearly, but I do need time on my own sometimes

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Oh Sian, absolutely…I go bonkers without at least some quiet in my day….but definitely know that from 6-7am and 2-8pm, there’s *absolutely* no chance of that….!!!!

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  3. Debby says:

    Very interesting, Helen. I get that and to some extent find that so but more times I find writing is what helps me sort out the inner tension. Isn’t it great how there’s more than one way and how we all bring different perspectives? I really enjoy the freedom in that. I’m sorry for the trauma you’ve been through but applaud your refusal to to succumb defeat and have found a way for emotional rest.

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Hi Debby…another comment that found it’s way to Spam (how rude of WordPress; it’s totally *not* Spam-worthy!!!)….oh, definitely, I journal and wouldn’t have survived if I hadn’t journaled my way through all the ‘mess’ of the last few years….it’s definitely what helps me process everything and allows a deeper reflection on my inner tensions. Then, once I’ve journal led/meditated – somehow reached my ‘good place’ mentally, *then* I can write….uuufff…what a process! But so worth it! Thanks for your kind comments: so much appreciated, honestly….it’s been so wonderful getting to know you a bit better through ‘On Being’….Helen xx

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So interesting to read the process you go through to write. Writers in general fascinate me. It’s just not something “in me” that way, but I sure appreciate the talents of others. However, if I were a writer I think I’d be very similar to you about it. Thanks for always sharing so much about yourself dear Friend. Love it! 🙂
    Blessings on the week ahead. xo

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Hia Carrie….I do sometimes think I share far too much but this felt like it might be useful to others who might be facing the same ‘Oh my goodness, how on EARTH do I make this happen?’ moments….blessings right back at you…Helen xxx

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  5. I really liked hearing about your process of how to rest so you can write Helen! You are an amazing writer. I think it has a lot to do with how deep your well is. You have so much to pull from. I probably could afford to use more meditation in my life. I write to feel better and calm down so the very act of writing helps me rest and calm my nervous system. But my writing would probably be better if I rested before I wrote 😉

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    • Now that I’m thinking about it, I do what I would consider my “better writing” when I have had some alone time. I think being alone really helps me process.

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      • iwillbloom says:

        Hia Heather…there you go! One of the Dalai Lama’s rules for living is to take at least 30 minutes each day ‘alone time’ – whatever else is happening. In this way, he says, you’re able to examine what’s going in your life, yourself, and what it is you want and what you need to do to get that/there…..(It’s not selfish, it’s **necessary**, I find…). And what was it someone said, “The unexamined life is not worth living” (Socrates?)…

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Hia Heather….thanks (as always) for your comment, which made me smile and then blush and then get all shy 🙂 You definitely should try to make space for meditation; it’d open up a whole new world for you, I’m certain….definitely agree with you about writing calming nerves/anxieties…I think if I didn’t get rid of all my ‘c**p’ in my journal in the mornings, I’d honestly never be able to function… 😦

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  6. Tara says:

    Great post! I totally hear where you are coming from. I really identified with these words: “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.” YES!

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  7. carlybenson says:

    There’s a lot of wisdom here- I agree,it is important to be in the right frame of mind to be able to write well, and I think it’s great that you have tools and techniques that help you get there. I think being aware of our thoughts and learning to combat them or redirect them when they’re not helping us is so important too- and I like the Victor Frankl quote.

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  8. Gabriele says:

    Teaching yourself to be off guard seems to be a pathway into many other things, like writing when you are in the flow. It inspires me to continue to work on the meditation and yoga practice I have.

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Hi Gabriele, I definitely think there’s something in it and do hope it works for you…I am very excited about seeing your 31 Days posts….Helen xx

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  9. alexa says:

    I have really enjoyed reading your thinking (if you see what I mean) and that Victor Frankl quote is one of most favourite. I was fascinated by the discussion that’s developed in the comments about ‘alone’ time. I am sorely devoid of this, with the demands of being a carer. I think it’s three years since I was last in the house on my own, and just long for it … I can get little gulps of alone time if I get the chance to be away, but there is something about being able to nestle into one’s own space …

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Hi Alexa, I have found great solace, over the last few years, in the words of Victor Frankl. His books are some of the most powerful I’ve ever read. I admire you so much, how you opened your home and altered your life to be able to accommodate your parents and now how you care, so attentively, for your Dad. Thinking of you, Alexa….Helen xxx

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  10. Hi Helen, what a wonderful post and your images are beautiful x I’ve always thought I was a little odd (and I probably so am 🙂 in that I love people, being around people but that I so desperately need to be alone too. I need alone time to recharge, to be able to cope with everything else when I’m not alone. I certainly couldn’t write without my alone time. Sending heaps of hugs, Rosie xx

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Hia Rosie, have been feeling ill so haven’t had the strength to drag myself to the computer….hence my late reply! You sound like a classic introvert (I am one too)…hugs right back at you…will re-visit your blog over the weekend, Helen xx

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