You may remember last month when I suggested that writers work with something a little different than the traditional idea of the classical Muses. I played around with the term “inner creative font” in that article, but I’ve subsequently landed on “inner creative self” simply because of that starting point:
If you want to write a book, you’ve already written it. You just have to get it onto the page.
So there’s an inner creative urge, a spark, a desire, and a wholeness that enables our storytelling.
This has been, for me, an extremely liberating way of seeing creativity. Rather than it being something I “put on,” like putting on a raincoat before going out in a thunderstorm, creativity is already here, more like the feathers on a duck’s back.
Everyone’s different, which is wonderful and messy and frustrating. So when it comes to loosing the Girls and cultivating a relationship with them, we all get to figure out what works for us.
For me, hands-down my #1 tool is meditation. I’m already meditation-inclined, so over the past several years as I’ve grown into a consistent practice, I’ve noticed the Girls have been more and more likely to show up.
There are tons of ways to meditate — the internet is covered up with guided meditations, instructions for focused meditations, etc., etc. — but the one I use comes from my fundamental spiritual practice. It’s simply counting the breath.
Here’s what happens:
- I sit comfortably (but alertly).
- On the in-breath, I count 1.
- On the out-breath, I count 2.
- On each following in-breath, I increment by 1. (In is 1, out is 2. In is 2, out is 2. In is 3, out is 2. And so forth.)
- When I get to 10, I start over at 1.
- I do that for several minutes.
A whole host of thoughts crowd in, clamoring for attention, but I don’t try to force them away. When I realize I’m paying attention to what I have to do at work tomorrow or the grocery list, I bring my attention gently back to counting breaths again.
Important: If you decide to try this, keep in mind that it doesn’t matter how many times you have to bring your attention back to your breath! This is all part of the process. You won’t get a gold star for having an absolutely clear mind for 5 minutes (though if you do manage it, I’m sure there’s a spiritual guru somewhere looking for an assistant, so you can just levitate on over there).
The act of coming back to the breath is as much a part of the process as getting through a count of 10 without a shiny thought grabbing our attention.
If you practice this technique for 5 minutes a day, 7 days a week, there’s a strong chance you’ll start experiencing more creativity, more ease with the writing process, and less stress, to boot.
Whether you decide to up the time from 5 minutes to something more is entirely up to you.
Interestingly, this practice is focused on seeing things as they are: meeting life as it presents itself, and becoming acquainted with the stories, judgments, and miscellaneous other stuff my brain generates nonstop. For some reason, the practice of watching the breath for a few minutes every day opens up space for the Girls to speak and move and dance.
For the Non-Meditators
But not everyone is meditation-inclined, so some other options for opening up the creative space might be useful:
- Explore your creativity in another art form. Try painting, drawing, or pottery – something that gets your hands engaged. A creative physical activity can get the juices flowing in unexpected ways.
- Take a long walk. The brain functions differently when we’re moving, and there’s starting to be evidence that our creative space opens up when we’re active.
- Make sure you get enough sleep. A tired brain closes down to possibilities and opportunities, while a refreshed brain remains open and curious. Most of us are sleep-deprived because we artificially cram our sleep into 7 or 8 hours, when the natural human cycle (that is, before the invention of the electric light bulb) was more like 4 hours of sleep, 1-2 of mild activity, and another 4 of sleep.
- Do something for someone else (outside your own home). Volunteering and helping others naturally opens up our hearts and minds, and our creativity can emerge more easily.
- Listen to music. As Lorinda has suggested, music that fits the tone of your story can inspire the Girls to speak by “setting the tone,” as it were and eliciting feelings that tap into the creative space.
I want to be clear about one thing: I can’t use this touchy-feely stuff as an excuse to do nothing. It’s not an excuse to play hooky on writing day or to avoid writing something hard in favor of writing something easy.
Sometimes the story I’m writing is painful because it touches a deep place inside. Sometimes it’s difficult to write because the Girls are asking me to stretch myself in terms of my style or craft. Sometimes I get confused and think that if the Girls are driving, then the writing will flow without any effort – but that’s often not the case.
For me, all of this is about starting from a place of recognition: If you want to write a story, you already have. The question is how to get out of my own way.
Sandra K. Moore has been writing one thing or another since she could scribble on a Big Chief tablet. A former Silhouette Bombshell author, Sandra has given up (temporarily) the kickass heroine and is now writing from her softer side for the self-published Promise House series. This novella quartet explores the journeys of four young women finding their way — and remaining true to themselves — through the social expectations and turmoil of 1950’s Houston.