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Meditation: Intentional vs. unintentional thinking

Today over at Writer Unboxed, a fabulous website chock full of helpful tips for published and non-published authors alike, Orna Ross wrote a post entitled “Why Writers Should Meditate”.  It got me thinking about meditation, in a traditional and slightly non-traditional sense, when it comes to my own writing.

Prior to getting pregnant with my first son, I never understood the idea of meditation.  It seemed that I had too many things going on to sit quietly, centering my thoughts and myself.   Then I signed up for a prenatal yoga class, and in the midst of centering my 7-month pregnant belly while in lotus position, I found myself centering my internal thoughts, too.  Finding those moments of quiet, albeit fleeting, in the first months after the birth of my son helped me take stock of all the blessing in my life.  It also helped me calm my internal editors – voices who not only judged my writing (which was intermittent in those first sleepless months), but also judged my daily actions as a new mom.  Most importantly, freeing myself from the work of intentional thinking led to an unintentional stumbling upon some of my best ideas as a writer.

Now that I spend as much time shuttling my busy preschooler and elementary-schooler around as I do putting words on paper, I rarely find the time for yoga or traditional meditation.  However, I have noticed that I still find those fleeting moments during which I can shut off my overly-planned intentional thoughts and allow some of those unintentional whisperings from the muse peep through the noise.  How, you ask, can anyone find that kind of time in this crazy world of parenting and writing?

Here are my top five tips for powering down my brain without powering it off.  A non-traditional take on meditation that saves my sanity and gets the creative juices flowing:

  • Showers.  Ever hear someone say they get their best ideas in the shower?  That’s me.  I’m known at my house for being the world’s longest showerer.  Sometimes shutting the door and cranking up the steam is all it takes for the ideas to come showering down (pun very much intended!)  Some writers swear by these waterproof notepads, but I find that an old underwater writing board from my scuba diving days is the perfect place to jot down notes.  Fill it up and transfer the notes to your computer for future use.
  • Household Renovation.  We’re in the midst of renovating our vacation condo in the mountains.  Last weekend I spent four hours painting a room.  The repetitive actions of cutting in and rolling helped turn off my conscious thoughts and let my sub-conscious run wild with ideas.
  • Exercise.  A run or walk around my neighborhood not only lifts my spirits, but puts my brain in the right place for inspiration.  Most writers will tell you that a quick walk helps them stretch out after a marathon keyboard session – not just their legs, but brains, too.
  • Driving.  It rare that I don’t have two or more kids in my car, but on the days that I have a few automotive moments to myself, I crank up the radio for a bit and then shut everything down.  Never fail, a story that I heard on NPR or the lyrics from a new song gel with something completely different that has been floating around in my brain.  Those disparate connections swim around and eventually take root as new writing ideas.
  • Yoga and meditation.  Sometimes there’s nothing like the real thing.  In the few spare moments that I do have, I find that yoga and/or traditional meditation take the cake.  Quieting my thoughts and stretching my body allow my mind to stretch in new directions, too. 

Tomorrow, I kick off a 16-part series on setting yourself up for successful novel writing.  This will detail the nuts-and-bolts of process as well as my thoughts on generating themes and plot points.  Some of these ideas might just come during a traditional or non-traditional meditation session.  Give it a try and happy writing.

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