Clearing your mind of day-to-day activities before settling to write will help you get into the writing zone.
Clearing The Mind
In order to get into the zone for writing, it is useful to clear our minds of ‘head-chatter’. This is mind activity made up of the remnants of whatever day to day activities we’ve been involved in prior to moving into our writing time.
Thoughts continually come and go, and vie for top position in our minds. Attached to these thoughts are emotions, which distract us from our task unless we still them. Willing them away is often not enough to dislodge them, so we need to clear them out – at least for the duration of our writing session.
There are various mind-clearing techniques, but for now the following simple exercise will give you a starting point to work with until my next post.
- Sit quietly and consider your day so far. What have you been doing? Has it been a pleasant morning/day? Have you had issues to deal with? Have you been feeling overloaded? Have you been relaxing?
- Move backwards to yesterday and ask yourself similar questions and any others that come to mind. Now, the day before yesterday, the last week… and so on, until you start to pass from what is close to the surface of your mind to what you have to dredge up. (At this point you’re going into memories and not thoughts or images currently bouncing around your mind.)
- Write a list of as many of the thoughts, feelings, images, conversations and issues that rush from you in light of your most recent experiences.
- When you think the list is exhaustive, close your eyes and allow more thoughts or feelings to surface. Add these to your list.
- Repeat this last step until your mind is clear of current/recent events. These have now been set aside for another time or have lost their immediate importance.
- At this point you’re ready to move into your writing zone. Connect with your computer or notebook and delve into your writing session.
This exercise is similar to one I use when I can’t sleep at night because all the tasks I have for the following day invade my mind and push to be remembered. In this case, I write a list of everything I can think of that needs to be done. Then I prioritise them and put the list where I’ll see it in the morning.
This process takes the thoughts/worry about the tasks out of my brain and onto the paper. It also underlines the fact that I can’t do anything more towards them until morning – thus freeing me to sleep.
Everyone has their own way of focusing as they prepare to write. Some people go for a walk first, swim or read. Others just settle at their computer and head into the next chapter. Whatever the chosen route into our work, we all have days when achieving focus is difficult.
Take heart; there are steps we can take to successfully enter and remain in the Writing Zone – that state where there is only you and your work, and you become as one lost in the journey of creation.
Early last year, I posted a blog about how we can act mindlessly when we’re overloaded, stressed or distracted. The example I gave from my life involved a batch of x-rays skyrocketing from the roof of my car, where I’d inadvertently left them days earlier, and the more mindful actions of the good Samaritan who went to great lengths to restore them to me. You can read this Musings blog Here.
When we act mindlessly, we’re not concentrating; not focused on the present, but distracted by past and/or future events. We’re operating ‘on automatic’, with little or no intellectual effort. We’re paying no attention to dangers or outcomes, or anything else related to the task at hand.
Conversely, when we act mindfully, we’re living in a conscious way. We’re ‘awake’ to reality, acutely aware of our surroundings, and more able to take in details. We can muster increased concentration and focus. Problems become opportunities and we can make conscious decisions for the most satisfactory outcomes.
The aim of mindfulness is to be fully present and focused. When we operate in the moment, we’re removed from before and after the now. We’re able to access a deep well of creative awareness with a clear mind, acute senses, more accessible and accurate memory, and unimpeded flowing thoughts.
I like to think of focusing on mindfulness as similar to putting on glasses for the first time – everything is clearer, details are sharper.
Mindfulness is useful at every level of the writing process. Decisions about where and when we write, how we ensure uninterrupted work time, how we clarify our writing goals, how we ensure we’ll stay on track, and how and where we’ll do our research, are just some of the questions we need to approach up front with clarity.
Then there is the transition from preparation to the writing itself. This is when we need to ‘get into the zone’, by letting go of anything crowding our minds from our pre-work activities or even our preconceptions about our work.
It isn’t possible to be centred while being hindered by self-doubt, self-judgement and/or the things we use to avoid writing… like telling ourselves writing is a waste of time, we’re too busy, and no one would be interested anyway; distracting ourselves by watching television, cleaning out cupboards, or anything else that feeds procrastination or impedes clarity.
If you are plagued in this way, considering the concepts highlighted in my blog Writer’s Block – Part C may release you to re-focus and take advantage of mindfulness techniques.
You can return to these questions at any time if you feel the need, but once you’re through them and feel ready to write, move on to mind-clearing and grounding exercises that will take you into the writing zone.
A simple clearing exercise can be found Here. Use this as a starting point, and watch for more techniques as they are posted.
Next Blog: Mindful Writing
I would value your thoughts and feedback in the Comments section, which can be found at the end of each post.
If you would like to be notified each time I post on my website, please enter your email address under the heading Follow My Blog, on the bottom of the right-hand column on any page. Your email address will not be passed on to any third party and no other information is required. This is a free service to ensure you don’t miss new posts.