Writing, painting and, playing music are like meditation. You know that feeling when you’re in the zone? For me, it feels like slipping into a quiet place in my head, where ideas flow without me having to think too much about it.
Using the right side of the brain
I came across Betty Edwards, Drawing on the right side of your brain, when I was practicing life drawing, several years ago. She explains that the left side of our brain is concerned with logical thought and the right with creativity. Betty Edwards, can explain this much better than me, see her website and blogs https://www.drawright.com.
When we are writing or drawing and allow the right side of our brain to lead, we allow our creativity to flow unchecked. The left side of our brain wants to analyse what we are doing and judge how good it is. When I was worried about whether my debut novel would find a market, my mind went blank. I didn’t think that I had another novel idea in me. Everything that came into my head, I dismissed. The left side of my brain squashed any glimmer of creative thought.
Writers and artists need to have a business head, selling our work is a business. But we have to separate this from the creative process. When a person complains of writers’ block, I believe it is because they cannot quieten the left side of the brain and tune in to their creativity using the right side.
Meditation Writing Exercises
This is where meditation helps. The deep relaxation of meditation stills your mind. That feeling of being aware but also in a dreamlike state is similar to being in the zone. If you can prepare to write by first meditating, you may find that ideas come more easily and you switch off the critical part of your brain that tries to censor what you write.
Julia Cameron introduced Morning pages in her book The Artists Way (1992). Check out Julia’s blogs on creativity https://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/
Morning Pages are a daily practice of writing first thing in the morning, allowing a stream of consciousness to flow, to stimulate creativity. This exercise is making the most of your body’s relaxed state on waking, to tune in to the right side of the brain.
Try writing something immediately after your meditation practice. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or sentence structure. Just write. I use notebooks for these and never travel without one. When I read them back, I’m sometimes surprised at the beauty of the writing. If I had set out to write in that way, I wouldn’t have been able to. It comes from somewhere deep inside and I need to be in that relaxed meditative state.
You might also try a guided meditation on creativity. There are a few but I recommend Mind Valley’s one, see my blog Meditation Challenge Part Two.
The Artist Within
I started this blog by saying, writing and drawing are like meditating. To improve any of these skills, you need to practice, ideally a daily routine. When you first start to meditate you will find that your mind wanders and you have to gently bring it back to the present. It’s the same when you’re writing. You want to focus inward but the left side of your brain keeps trying to tug you back, distracting you with daily trivia or criticising your inner voice. That’s okay, just as in meditation, you patiently refocus until you find yourself in the zone.
At the end of a yoga class we say to one another ‘Namaste’. This, as you no doubt know, means, ‘The divine in me bows to the divine in you.’
I think that as writers and artists we are connecting the divine in us with the divine in others. Creating from the heart, we are offering up something of ourselves. It will be received and interpreted by others, as it touches something in them, this could be excitement, empathy, joy or inspiration. A good book makes you forget the outside world as you absorb yourself in an imaginary world. Art and music can touch us in a profound way.
Keep yourself in brackets
When I was learning how to facilitate group work as a health and social care professional, a wise mentor said to me, ‘You need to keep yourself in brackets.’ I think that we have that same responsibility as writers. If the divine in me is to connect with readers on an emotional level, they need to believe in the world I have created and not be jarred into the present by an awareness of the writer. That can be a narrative tone, which is like the writer looking over your shoulder explaining why they wrote a particular line or too much disclosure on social media. There is a fine balance between getting to know a writer and maintaining a sense of mystery and awe. I hate it when I love an actor in a particular role and then I find out that they are not a nice person.
And so, I will refrain from telling you about the contents of my laundry basket and instead wish you Namaste, until next week when the topic will be how reading and writing can help us to develop greater empathy.