Matilda Butler, ABC’s of Writing #22
Many of us write everyday. For me that’s a mixture of blogging and work on our almost finished (honest) Writing Alchemy. (I keep finding wonderful material to add to the book, but am closing in on the last of it.) And when I’m not writing, I’m either editing what I’ve written or I’m editing someone else’s work.
Some days I tell myself the key is time in the chair, even if I don’t make much progress. But is that the best approach? Should I be doing something that gets me ready to write, that helps me focus and be more productive?
I’ve got three suggestions for you that were sent to us at Women’s Memoirs by Maria Rainier, a freelance writer. I’m posting one here and have posted the other two on our website. Even if you don’t follow these specific tips, I hope you’ll find comparable ones. I know I’ve just joined a gym and believe that additional physical activity with be good for both my body and my writing.
A Tip for Memoir and Life Writers
by Maria Rainier
Most professional writers take time to write every day, whether they’re working or not, but that can add up to a lot of writing. It’s easy to get tired of the practice of writing – the process, the same scheduled block of time, the deadlines that loom overhead.
But you can change your attitude toward writing with a change in your writing practice. One simple yet effective way to do this is to change your approach to writing by solidifying your mindset before you begin. As you might imagine, there are endless ways to find and keep a good writing mindset. Depending on who you are, you might be inspired by the sound of a tractor backfiring on a dairy farm or you might feel creative when you keep a vase of fresh flowers on your desk. No matter what puts you in touch with your muse, it’s important to replicate that context when you’re struggling to find your writing mindset. To help you identify activities that evoke your creative spirit, I’ve listed a few of mine. I hope that you can use them to find inspiration or to discover your own means of courting the muse.
Yoga & Breathing Exercises
Often, when I’m feeling unable to write well, it’s because my ability to feel inspired is being impaired by my own body. If I’m not relaxed, my mind has trouble getting past the stress felt by my body, making it difficult to focus on finding that writing mindset. Fortunately, I’ve found a way to relax that helps me feel stronger, more focused, and even more confident in my ability to write well. I work my way through a short half-hour yoga program that includes pranayama, or breathing exercises, to calm down my body and mind.
While it’s easy to worry about wasting time when you’re a writer, yoga has proven to be a valuable investment for me. Once I’ve completed the program, my mind feels clear and my body no longer draws my focus away from work. The simple effort of following my breath and concentrating on my body’s absorption of oxygen has a calming effect that serves as the perfect precursor to a few hours of writing.
I usually try to make time for yoga when I know that I need it, but if that’s out of the question, I can still achieve a good result with a few minutes of focused breathing. I do circle breathing when I’m pressed for time, which involves taking a deep breath in through the nose, pinching the right nostril shut, and exhaling through the left. I then pinch my left nostril shut as well, then unblock the right and inhale again. I repeat this process until I feel ready to begin writing.
If this tip intrigues you, we hope you’ll read Maria Rainier’s other two on our website.