6 Easy, Revealing Ways You Can Prevent & Overcome Overload

6 Ways to Cope with Writer Overwhelm Natural Writer Podcast

For a writer, writing is the dream. The writer wants to make it in the world and let their words hold their place in it. However, getting to that point can be somewhat overwhelming. So much so, that writer overwhelm can stop some writers from even starting. The goal then is just to reach the finish line of their novel or story, to be able to write “The End.”

But what about when you reach the finish line? What then?

We all know that the rough draft is not the final draft. And no matter how beautiful you think that first draft is, it is not the final draft. Editing and revision is a huge part of the writing journey, and it can seem like a daunting task, but it is a necessary one. This can create overwhelm in itself!

Then you have to consider what you want to do with your book when you’ve completely polished it. Do you want to just keep it for yourself? Make a small batch to give out to friends and family? Publish? Do you want to self-publish, or do you want to traditionally publish? Do you use indie publishers or one of the big 5?

There’s a lot to think about!

The good news is that there are ways to deal with this kind of stress. Let me walk you through the six ways to deal with overwhelm.

Six Ways
to
Combat Writer Overwhelm

Let me first start by saying that this is in no particular order. There are steps which might benefit you to take part in before others, or some steps which might not even be applicable to you. I encourage you to try everything to prevent your writer overwhelm, but I’ll leave the order in which you test them up to your own creative expertise.

ONE
Make a To-Do List
to Prevent & Overcome
Writer Overwhelm

Make a to-do list to combat and prevent writer overwhelm.
This image is to povide a quick glance at how to create your to-do list

When I was in college, I would get overwhelmed by everything on my plate. It didn’t help that I was working three jobs at the time, including my tutoring gig for the college, and not including the private tutoring I was doing on the side, or even working as a class assistant for the ESLA students.

When I had the massive tsunami of to-do’s crashing through my mind, I stressed myself out, to put it mildly. I would sit and stare at the homework I was supposed to be doing and be completely paralyzed and unable to focus on getting anything done.

Finally, I wrote a list and organized it.

It went something like this:

  1. Create a list of everything that needs doing by the end of the week/month
  2. Organize it by what needs doing first
  3. Break down the steps for each item on the list (research, editing, writing, gathering surveys, how long a shift takes, etc.)
  4. Estimate how long each task will take to complete.
  5. Write out how much time I need for daily living (eating, sleeping, transport, exercise, etc.)
  6. Create a schedule for each day to complete each task

I found that when I did this, I realized two things:

  1. I didn’t have as much on my plate as I thought I did
  2. None of my tasks would take as long as I thought they would

Once I had a visual in front of me of what needed doing, by what time, and how long it would take to get each thing done, I was able to make a plan and stick to it.

Breaking the Day Up

I would take this a step further and break my day up by my breaks. So, for example, lunch break, coffee break in the afternoon, and dinner. As a student, you can imagine that I didn’t stop once dinner time hit. I would usually keep working into the evening, only to get up at 3 in the morning (yeah, you read that right). I’m not suggesting you get up at 3 in the morning to start your day, by the way.

When I broke the day up with my breaks, I could section my day into “bite-sized” chunks. I knew that before breakfast I wanted to go back over my math homework. I knew that between breakfast and lunch I had a class, a tutoring shift, and an hour to work on my English paper, during which time I would pull out the quotes I wanted to use, and so on.

The trick was to only look at the section of the day that was coming up next. This meant I could compartmentalize the day, which made my tasks more manageable.

Crossing Items Off

A pen and to-do list with an item crossed off: this can be a visual affirmation that you are getting stuff done.
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

When you have a massive to-do list, it can feel like you’re trying to dig a hole on the beach in the surf. You keep shoveling sand and water out of the hole, but it just keeps filling up.

When you list out your tasks for a day, including the mini tasks to build up to the whole task, you feel a sense of accomplishment. You can see that you’re getting things done, and that you’re not just digging a hole that won’t be dug. This is essential to keeping you going through a daunting mountain of work supporting that writer overwhelm.

When we can visually see what we’ve already done and that we’re making progress, we’re more likely to keep moving forward.

TWO
Get Clear on Your Goals
to Prevent Writer Overwhelm

What do you want to do with your story/book/writing career? Do you want to be the next Stephen King? Do you want to be a travel writer? Do you want to make a passive income? Expand your business with your knowledge? Become a self-help guru?

Do you want to just get your story out there, and then whatever happens, happens? Do you want to be a part of the 20Booksto50k rush to make your living with rapid release self-publishing? Or are you wanting to create something for your loved ones to enjoy?

Knowing your goals can help you decide the path you need to take. Furthermore, when you know what you need to take, then you can prevent unnecessary actions, and thus prevent writer overwhelm.

I want to be very clear with this: your goals must represent what you want, not what you think you should want.

This might take some time and a lot of self-reflection to know what it is that you truly want from your writing life. There are a couple steps you can take to discovering this.

Journal

Your journal is your trusty companion that you should be utilizing throughout your writing journey. It is your conversation with yourself so you can understand what’s going on in your head, what you’re feeling, and so on.

In this instance, you can work through these questions in your journal to understand your goals better. Go through each question one at a time and really spend some time writing on it. Set a timer on your phone or your watch and give yourself at least seven minutes to write on each one, trying not to stop writing even when you’ve run out of things to say. If you do run out of things to say, write “I don’t know what to write” on repeat until something else comes up or your timer runs out.

Get into the “why” of each answer you give. Keep asking yourself until you feel you’ve reached the core of your answer.

Journal Questions

Journal questions to help you understand your version of success so you can effectively navigate you way through writer overwhelm
  1. What does success look like to you?
  2. Where have you been successful in the past, in any area of life, and by whose standards of success? How did it feel?
  3. What does writing success look like to you? How is it measured? In money? Books printed? Books sold? Books written?
  4. What does a writing career look like to you?
  5. What does success look like on a daily basis? As in, what does your writing routine look like, how you fit it in with the rest of your life, etc.? Does this include a possible wordcount goal, chapter goal, hourly goal? Get specific.
  6. What is your writing routine now?
  7. How do you feel after completing your wordcount or hourly writing goal? Are you relieved? Drained? Exhausted? Pleased?
  8. What is your timeline of success?

These questions are meant to help you get real with yourself, to know yourself. Often times, we’re stuck in the story of what we’re told is successful or accomplished.

When I graduated high school and was asked what I wanted to do with my life, I said I wanted to be a starving writer. I had in part being glib, but I was also being real. My version of success at that time was simply to write. I didn’t care if I published (I did care, but that wasn’t the end goal), or if I made money. All that mattered to me was that I was always writing.

Mapping

Map out what your life would look like if you succeeded in your goal. Get as detailed as you can. What does the overall picture look like? What does your living situation look like? Really dig in and look at each area of your life:

  • Lifestyle and livelihood – your housing, your income, how you live your life
  • Body and wellness – how does this affect your physical and mental self?
  • Creativity – you’re a writer, so it feels like you should always be creative, but if you sell your book and become the next J. K. Rowling, how will it affect your creativity? Just ponder this idea.
  • Relationships – how does this affect your romantic life? Your social life? Your family life?
  • Society – how does this affect your role in society? Will you do more in your community? Less?
  • You – how does your success affect who you are?

Go through and examine how you define success for your writing and imagine yourself in that place. Think about how that affects each of these areas in your life. Be as real as possible. If you want to make your living using a rapid-release method of writing, how does that affect your body? Does it mean that you need to move more because you’re sitting for longer periods of time? Does it mean you would need to ask more of your partner while you work to reach this goal?

Once you’ve taken an honest look at each area of your life, ask yourself if you like what you see, if it’s something that you can embrace. If so—excellent. You’re doing this for you.

If not, that’s okay. Ask yourself what you want each area of your life to look like and then see what version of success fits. You can play around with this as much as you want.

This is for you, for your goals, for your life. No one can live your life but you, so make sure that your writing goals are tailored for your idea of writing success.

THREE
Meditation for Writer Overwhelm

Meditation is an extremely useful tool in just about every area of life, but especially when it comes to preventing as well as overcome writer overwhelm. It can calm us, bring us into a state of presence, and put us in touch with our creative sense. When we feel swamped, it can help to bring clarity of mind, which in turn can help us to organize our thoughts and quell our anxiety.

Meditation can also help us delve into ourselves. When we quiet our minds long enough to listen to the voices of our subconscious, or intuition, we can learn what we truly want. This is extremely helpful when considering your goals as a writer, as well as your goals in your daily life.

There are many ways to use meditation, but here are a few that I recommend.

Daily Meditation

meditation can keep the mind calm before stressful situations occur, as well as keep the mind calm when writer overwhelm threatens to strike.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Making meditation a habit can help clear your mind in general. When you create time and space to make meditation a part of your daily routine, your mind is overall calmer. You can read about this more here.

Daily meditation can be as simple as paying attention to your breathing.

Guided Meditation

There are many guided meditations on YouTube that can help you anchor and center yourself. These meditations can also help you delve into yourself specifically to find answers. One might take you on a journey to talk to your future self, another might take you to a path to get in touch with your intuition. Look through what’s available on YouTube and give a couple a try.

For more meditations for writing, you can find Meditations to Overcome Writer’s Block on Audible, which is a compilation of guided meditations from a variety of writers.

Sleep Meditation

Again, on YouTube, you can find meditations which play throughout the night. These are sometimes called subliminal messaging as well, depending on the you choose. If you can hear the words being spoken, they will often guide you into a meditation, or, if you’re like me, into sleep. The words will either play audibly or under the guise of the accompanying music, throughout the night.

I personally have used these for a variety of things including my fear of flying, waking up motivated, overcoming anxiety during this pandemic, and so on.

Spend a week experimenting with these to see how they help you.

FOUR
Delegate Your Tasks
to Overcome Writer Overwhelm

What? Delegate? Delegate what to who?

I used to work in video production. By that I mean that I helped my partner at the time build up his video production business by helping him market himself, learning to film, learning about cameras and audio, and learning to edit.

In return, he wanted to help me with my own writing overwhelm.

I laughed and told him that my writing was a solo project. How on earth could he help me?

At that time, I wasn’t in any position to be helped with my writing projects. I had one book that I had completed and tried to self-publish (which I have since buried and covered the grave with cement), and was barely writing anything else.

Once I began to take my writing more seriously, I could have asked him for help—and lots of it. There was a lot that I wanted to accomplish, and doing the research for detracted from my writing time and added stress.

Here are some tasks you can delegate:

  • Research for your book
  • Research writing competitions
  • Research agents/magazines/journals/anthologies/publishers accepting submissions
  • Writing your cover letter for your submission or query letter.
  • Book cover design/finding quality and affordable designers
  • Finding Beta readers
  • First round of edits
  • Final edits
  • Setting up your author website/social media
  • Social media management

These are just to list a few.

Professionals

Photo by Canva Studio on Pexels.com

There are a few areas where it is essential to hire a professional. Editing and book cover design are two of those areas. You might be able to design your book cover yourself, if you’d like, but unless you specifically have a background in design, you might be better off handing the task over to someone who does design for a living.

With editors, while you might be an editor yourself or have a keen eye for mistakes, you are too close to your project. That is a fact. Your brain will fix mistakes, and no matter how many times you comb over your MS, there will be some tenacious mistakes that get through.

Fun fact: Gone with the Wind has two typos in it. Those suckers get through no matter how big the book.

There are plenty of ways you can get your piece as polished as possible, but you should still hire someone to proofread, to copyedit, and potentially provide a developmental edit.

Freelancers

You don’t necessarily need to go to a big company to get some of these tasks completed. Have a look on freelance websites for people offering their services. Some great websites are:

This is just to name a few.

However, when you hire a freelancer through these websites, be sure that you stick to the website, especially when it comes to sending documents or completing any transactions. It keeps both you and the freelancer safe and above board.

Likewise, be sure that you get a sample of their work before you hire them. There are many wonderful writers, artists, and website designers out there, but they can also be buried by people offering subpar work for a low price. It is better to spend the extra money to get something you will be happy with.

FIVE
Adjusting Your Timeline
to Prevent Writer Overwhelm

When you set yourself a goal, you need to be sure that you set a realistic timeline. A failure to do so can result in writer overwhelm.

Deadlines are wonderful things. They can keep us focused on a task or a project and get us to the finish line. However, sometimes we set unrealistic timelines, which causes stress, which then leads to overwhelm.

Photo by Michaela on Pexels.com

Your Personal Timelines

When you’re writing for yourself, you need to check in with yourself and be sure that you’re not the one contributing to your stress. If the timeline you set yourself is too strict, but you don’t see a way to move it, take some time to examine why you are stuck on this deadline.

When I first decided I needed to make money with my writing, it wasn’t for the love of writing, but because I had student debt to pay off. I wanted to half my debt-paying time. This put a lot of strain on me. It meant that I was going to need to come up with £500 every single month.

When I became overwhelmed with this, I adjusted my timeline. I didn’t need to do it right away. I just needed to eventually work my way up to it, reminding myself that I would some day pay off my debt with my writing, but I couldn’t force those writing jobs instantly.

If, for example, your goal is to use the rapid-release publishing model to quit your job in a year and be a full-time writer, ask yourself why you need to do this within a year? Can you aim to be part time at both within that timeline?

Returning to the journal prompts, spend some time in contemplation with these questions and explore possible solutions.

Writing for Others

I am a ghostwriter along side being a writing coach. I have one client with whom I’m working on three different series. I am capable of completing a book a week for my client, and I did so for a while. But just because I can do it, doesn’t mean I should.

After four weeks of doing this, I burnt myself out and became completely overwhelmed with anything else that was going on in my life. I talked to my client, and we adjusted my timeline to 10 days per book. As a result, I take three days off from writing and still have a full seven days to complete the book, which is more than enough time for me.

If you are in overwhelm, look at what can be adjusted. Be sure to keep your deadlines, but if you can move them around so that they work better for you, then do so.

If you are writing for someone else, be communicative. I assure you that your editor/publisher would rather get a quality piece of work from you as a result of extra time than a subpar piece of work on time.

SIX
Take Time Off
to Prevent Writer Overwhelm

When we have a pile of things to do, it’s easy to keep working until we can’t. We have things that need to get done, and they need to get done now.

But that doesn’t help anyone. It will burn you out and it might stop your progress completely. Burnout is really just another word for writer overwhelm.

When you’re making a list of things to do and scheduling your day out, remember to schedule time for relaxing for you.

More importantly, remember to schedule days off. That’s plural, by the way.

I mentioned that when I readjusted my timeline with my client for her books, that I took three days off from writing. While it’s actually three days off from writing her books, not writing in general, I make sure the very first day off is a day off from everything.

lounging on the couch and reading a book: relaxation and taking time off is essential for preventing and dealing with writer overwhelm

I don’t at my phone, I don’t touch my computer, and the only time I’m allowed to look at my kindle is if I’m listening to a podcast or reading a fiction book. The only work-related things I’m allowed to do are coaching calls, and that’s because I enjoy them so much.

Make sure that you are taking the time off that you need and deserve. No one can work all the time. We all need days off, even from things that we love.

If you can’t take a full day off, just be sure to schedule breaks for yourself. Mealtimes don’t count. During this time, do something completely different that you enjoy: read a chapter of a book, go for a walk, take a nap, watch an episode of something, meditate, journal, fantasize about completing your goal.

Try to avoid scrolling on social media during this time. It might feel relaxing, but sometimes it can trigger some anxiety, sadness, depression, or make you feel like you’re slacking. Sure those uplifting posts are designed to be motivational, but if you’re making yourself take a break when you’re already stressed, motivational posts might trigger some guilt.

Do not feel guilty for needing to take time off. It’s called Self Care, and self care is essential.

Six ways to deal with overwhelm: Make a list, know your goals, meditate, delegate, adjust, and take a break

Your Homework

This is essentially a post about self-care. Self-care is how you keep your candle lit and ever burning. You can’t do that if you’re burning it on both ends.

Your homework has four parts:

  1. Find a guided meditation that works for you on YouTube. There are plenty out there. Find one that works for you, and spend at least 20 minutes meditating. The purpose of this is to help you be centered and clear minded for the following parts.
  2. Go through the Journal Questions above and answer them all. Even if you’ve done something similar in the past, do it again. We are always changing, and sometimes our desires shift. This keeps us in communication with ourselves so that we can adjust our goals accordingly.  
  3. Ask yourself what tasks, if any you can delegate. Are there any friends or family who would be willing to help with any of these things?
  4. Create a self-care plan for when you start to feel like overwhelm might be creeping up. This might be to make a list ahead of time, to schedule time for yourself to relax before you get too anxious, or it could be to take a day or a week off before it gets to be too much. Figure out what works for you and prepare yourself.

Good luck, and happy writing!


What self-care works for you? Share in the comments below to help others discover ways they can look after themselves when things get stressful.


Want to dive deeper into your writing practice and pinpoint where you can improve your writing lifestyle or the blocks that need to be addressed? Fill out the form below to get your free Celtic Cross Spread for Writers Workbook: 75+ pages of tarot and journaling prompts to get in touch with the writer in you.

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Finding Your Steam: Writing Alchemy as an Act of Self-Love

What is writing?

There are so many ways to answer this question. That’s probably because there are so many ways to write, ranging from creative non-fiction to technical writing that reads like stereo instructions (is it me, or have stereo instructions actually gotten easier to read over the decades?).

However, for me, it’s a way to get in touch with water.

What the hell does that mean?

Okay, so I have a focus and love of Tarot. I’ve been a writer longer than I’ve been a tarot reader, but I’ve still been a Tarot reader for nearly half of my entire life, so at this point, I think with a slightly more esoteric twist.

In the Tarot, there are four suits that represent four elements: earth, air, fire and water.

To me, writing is a culmination of fire and water.

What?

I’ll back up.

Writing Water

Water is represented by the suit of cups in the tarot, and within the individual, it represents love, emotion, intuition, the subconscious and creativity.

When I write, I feel as though I’m diving into my imagination, swimming in my subconscious, and picking out ideas to bring to the surface. It’s a form of therapy. Why do you think so many writers put themselves into their writing? They’re understanding themselves.

I am plunging the chalice into my wells and pulling out the water from within. Writing, for me, is an act of self-love.

But self-love is hard for a lot of people. There is a lot of negativity in the world that helps people find a way to find flaws within themselves. Sometimes those flaws can be overwhelming, so much so that we forget that we have some amazing and beautiful qualities. As a result, that well of creativity gets covered, and it takes us a while to find it again and figure out how to remove the cover.

Writing Fire

I mentioned earlier that writing was a culmination of water and fire. That sounds very contradictory, but that’s also alchemy, baby.

Let’s start off easy: what is fire a representation of?

Fire is passion. It is the spark that ignites us and inspires us. It’s the yearning that burns within us to complete and achieve. It’s our get-up-and-go.

When you have a story idea that you get excited about, that’s fire energy at work. It is what springs you to life and says, “heck yes I’m going to write an epic space opera in one night!”

Fire can get out of control sometimes, which is why it is so important for water to be present.

Fire and Water

You have to find the balance between fire and water when you’re working on something as enriching as art. If you have too much fire, it can rage out of control and you can burn yourself out. But if you don’t have enough fire, or you have too much water, then the spark only weakly ignites, at best, before going out.

What happened when we, as a human species, got the right amount of fire and water? Steam punk! Okay, not quite steam punk, but steam engines. Those allowed us to have machinery which enhanced our farming, gravel, and transportation of goods.

You need to develop your own steam engine within you. You need to balance your passion and creativity.

How to Find Your Steam

I’m going to give you a somewhat of a cop-out answer to this: know yourself. When you know yourself, then you know your limits, you know what makes you light up, and you know what suffocates your flame. You know what’s boarding up your well.

Here are some methods I have found helpful to get to know myself. They are not universal, they will not work for everyone, but I implore you to try them. And if you have, or if you have other methods, share them in the comments below to help us all learn.

1.
Daily Journaling

Most writers do practice daily journaling anyway, but when you focus on yourself there is a lot to be learned. As you write, you feel more and more comfortable peeling the way layers of yourself. This is why I often provide journaling questions.

If you don’t journal, or if you do but you don’t really delve into yourself, start by asking yourself these questions each day, and trying to spend at least 5 minutes of continuous writing on them.

  1. What is my ultimate goal within myself this year?
  2. What do I need to accomplish within myself to achieve this goal?
  3. What is holding me back?
  4. How do I feel about this?
  5. What can I do about what’s holding me back?

A Note on Goals Within the Self

In this context, the above questions are more geared toward goal-setting. However, I would like to make this distinction: when we’re talking about goals within the self, we aren’t talking about career goals, writing goals, family goals, or anything external. What we’re talking about is internal goals such as being more forgiving, being kinder to yourself, self-love, trusting yourself, being more decisive, creating barriers, being more honest with yourself or with others, etc.

Think of your goal for the year as your character arch that you want to work toward.

2.
Practicing Stillness

Stillness means different things to different people. For some it’s meditation, for others it’s mindfulness.

The benefits of stillness is that it’s a practice to center your mind on the moment, on a single thing, or, when you get really good at it, on nothingness.

This can help to reduce anxiety, and when anxiety is reduced, clarity of mind emerges, and there are a various number of physiological responses to anxiety that subside.

Challenging yourself to spend one minute in stillness a day for a month can help you mellow out your fire so you don’t burn out. As you get better at it and more comfortable, you can increase the time you spend in stillness, which will help you to better hear your intuition and sense where your well is to draw from.

How to Practice Stillness

I want to offer some basic tips on how to practice stillness just to get you going if you’re new to this. Because you’re only starting out for one minute, you can literally do this anywhere: in the car before you go into work, or in your car after work, in the bathroom (preferably for privacy, not for multitasking), when you wake up and are laying in bed, before you go to sleep (actually, I find it helps me go to sleep), and so on.

Here are a couple of ways to start:

1. Focus on the Breath

You can start by just paying attention to your breathing. It’s helpful if you get a count going on. Personally, I like to breath in to the count of four, hold on for the count of four, exhale for the count of four, pause to the count of four, then repeat.

As you get better at it, you can extend your exhale to the count of eight to make sure all your air is expelled from your lungs. I find that when I draw in air, I do so much deeper than when I exhale. By counting to eight on the exhale, I’m getting rid of everything I drew in.

2. Ocean Waves

An extension of focusing on the breath is to imagine that your breathing is mimicking ocean waves. Sometimes the counting gets to me, but I have a love of the water (and this helps us to connect with the water of our inner wells). Thus, imagining inhaling being the gathering of the wave and my exhale as the crashing of the wave brings to mind a peaceful scene that I can focus on.

If you’re sometime who is easily distracted by sounds, this can be a good way to try to block sound out by focusing on the sound of your breathing.

3. Visualizing

There are several ways of doing this, so find something that works well for you. I personally have a couple of methods that I alternate between depending on my mood.

i. White Light

Visualize a ball of white light over your head. With each breath you take, it grows brighter and brighter. Now, lower the ball over your body, letting it touch every part of you. Wherever the light goes, you relax.

Let the ball cover you from head to toe, imagining it just below your feet when it’s finished. Breathe into it again, seeing it get brighter with each breath.

Now, bring it back up your body, repeating the process until it’s over your head again, letting its light relax your body. Once it’s above your head, hold it there for as long as you’re comfortable.

ii. Roots

Visualizing roots growing into the ground is an excellent way to still yourself. I find this is especially effective if I’m getting anxious. It’s a way of getting myself out of my head and planting myself to the spot, or grounding.

This visualization is very simple, and when you get good at it, you can do it while you’re walking. Simply visualize roots extending from the souls of your feet into the earth. See the roots wrap around rocks, dip into underground pools of water, and extend into the pit of the earth.

You are steady, connected, and the energy of the earth’s core is feeding you and energizing you.

iii. Beam of Light

Similar to visualizing roots, you visualize a beam of light coming from above and entering you through the top of your head. It comes down through your core, through your heart, and down into the soles of your feet.

Some might define this as divine light, universal energy, source, or simply just energy. Whatever you’re most comfortable with. Focusing and visualizing on this light can help you tune your mind to one thing and stay with it as long as you need.

iv. A Combination

During my daily stillness practice, I use a combination of all of these techniques. I visualize the white light relaxing my body, the beam of light coming down and joining with the sphere before moving down through my chakras and into the soles of my feet, where it extends into roots in the ground.

3.
Knowing Your Body

Knowing your body means not forgetting about your body.

We aren’t just our minds, our passions, or our creativity. We are physical beings making our way through a physical world. However, we are heavily influenced by our minds and our emotions. We are a connection of mind, body, and spirit.

In the Western World, it’s accepted that our minds reside in our brains. There are some traditions around the world which believe the mind resides elsewhere, such as the heart or the liver. What can be agreed upon is that the mind resides somewhere in the body. The body is the vehicle which must keep healthy in order for the mind to function optimally.

Thus, knowing your body can help your mind and your emotions, and thus help your creativity and drive.

For me, I know that when I’m starting to delve into a funk, it’s likely that I’m not physically moving enough, or that I’m vitamin deficient, or dehydrated. Thus, my daily practice includes not only walking the dogs, but dancing for at least ten minutes, doing some form of exercise for at least thirty minutes (yoga, walking, stretching—anything as long as it’s movement beyond sitting), and taking vitamins and supplements.

I am by no means saying this is what you should do. I am not a licensed medical professional. I’m saying this is what I do that works for me. Just because it works for me doesn’t mean that it will work for you.

Thus, you need to know your body. You need to know what foods your body responds well to. You need to know how much water you need in a day for your brain to work optimally. You need to know where the line is that defines too much sleep or not enough sleep. You need to know what movement makes you feel good and lights you up.

Dr. Andrew Weil suggests keeping a notebook with you to track every feeling in your body all day, from the unknown ache to the slight cough. This will help you understand what’s normal for your body, and how your body reacts to certain things.

Water is a huge part of our bodies, and it’s no wonder that a hydrated being can help one to be more connected to the element of water.

If you take only one thing away from this post, let it be to drink water. Lots of it throughout the day.

4.
Write

One of the best ways to know where your steam comes from is to write. While you’re writing, pay attention to how you feel. What is making you feel excited? What’s making you feel burnt out? What is draining you and making you feel like writing is a chore rather than a joy?

When you pay attention to these things, then you can see what may need adjusting, and thus you can try and find the happy medium to create your steam.

Your Homework

Of course, your homework is to try all of this out. See what works for you. Spend at least a month with any or all of these practices.

However, I have a few journal prompts for you in the meantime.

Thoth tarot: Art
  1. What does Water mean to you? Literally, spiritually, creatively, symbolically? Why? Spend some time really delving into what water is, and riff on anything related. What about analogies to wells, oceans, rivers, lakes, cups, chalices, rain, storms, etc.? How does this increase your understanding of water? How does this understanding influence you?
  2. What does Fire mean to you? Literally, spiritually, creatively, symbolically? Why?
    Spend some time delving into what fire is, and riff on anything related. What about analogies to sparks, inspiration, fire, man, infernos, forest fires, kitchen stoves, wood fires, heat, warmth, lava, burning, passion, etc.? How does this increase your understanding of fire? How does this understanding influence you?
  3. What is a balance of fire and water to you? Within you? Outside of you? What can you do to work toward this balance?
  4. How do you feel applying this concept to your writing? To your writing practice? How has it affected, if at all, your understanding toward your relationship with writing?

Finally, I implore you to look into the tarot card, Temperance. She is often depicted as mixing from two jugs or cups. Spend some time researching what she represents, what the card means, and from many stand points.

I am by no means saying you need to believe in the tarot or even incorporate it into your life. However, it is an art form, and each card provides insight to certain aspects of life. Temperance, along with the Queen of Wands and the Knight of Cups are examples of fire and water coming together, the latter two might represent imbalances between the two elements in some instances.

If you want to delve further into the tarot to better understand the elements, I suggest looking into the Ace of Cups and the Ace of Wands, The High Priestess and the Magician.

Here are a list of resources to get you started:

How does this card represent the balance of creativity and passion to you? Does it at all?

Happy Writing

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Exploring Our Sense: How Meditation Is a Creative Tool

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Stewards of Our Senses

I was watching an IGTV stream of Elizabeth Gilbert this morning and something she said really struck me.

She said that she operates by the concept that we are the stewards of our senses, which means, our senses will do what we tell them to do.

The context of this was that she was talking about not giving in to watching the news 24/7, or our phones, scrolling mindlessly, etc. You can watch the video here.

Our senses can be somewhat distracting at times. We can hear something which will set our mind reeling, or see something that we feel like we need to tend to, crave something to taste, smell something that reminds us of years gone by, and so on. All of this can take us out of our creative practices and send our minds anywhere else.

A way of combating this is through meditation and mindfulness. I’ll explore how and why a little later, but first I want to talk about just what exactly our senses are.

Creativity as Sense

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Of course, when we think of our senses, we’re looking at the basic five: sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste

One could argue that our senses are that which we use to experience the world around us, or, if you want to get quite rigid about it, our external world. But to me, this is quite limiting. I believe that we all have a whole other set of senses that are more internal.

The World

The philosophy major in me wants to point out that how we define “the world” is important here. There are a lot of philosophical differences in how we define this. For one, it can be the solely physical world that we can touch and experience together. Another way to look at the world is through the concepts that are assigned to it (the economy, peace, war, seasons, science, culture, etc.). The interesting thing is that what we view of the world is meant to be a collection of agreed upon understandings of it. However, the perplexing and converse thing is that we don’t all experience the world the same, in part because not all of us experience our five basic senses the same, but also because our mind tends to influence our perception so drastically (This is of course just touching on the many reasons why we don’t all view the same world, but these are a couple examples relevant to this piece article).

If our perceptions alter the way the world “is”, then we each experience the world differently, and thus, we interpret our senses differently. Furthermore, these fives senses are how we take in the external world to experience it. But how we experience the world is more than just how we take it in. It’s how we interact with it. Thus, it’s how we project ourselves and our ideas.

If this is a topic you’re interested in, I highly encourage you to check out Markus Gabriel’s “The World Does Not Exist.” I was lucky enough to see him speak while I was studying at Durham, and the guy is truly fascinating. His TEDtalk is here and a lecture he gave at Radbound University is here. Be cautioned: this is dense stuff.

Because of this, I consider creativity to be a sense.

Creativity as a Sense

If our senses are how we experience the world, we must consider that we, ourselves, are a part of the world, and thus, how we experience ourselves (our thoughts, our feelings, our physical and mental discomforts and pleasures, etc.) is, in part, experiencing the world. Thus, internal experiences such as thoughts and emotions, should be considered senses.

The second reason is that I believe that creativity is an experience. It isn’t just what you put out, but it’s that moment that the idea is forming within you. It’s in every stage that you’re developing your thought, your idea, your project. It’s that internal bit of pleasure that we experience and reach for.

Think about when your mind gently caresses an idea and your imagination bursts into excitement because you’ve been struck by inspiration. Think about the last time you were struck by the muse and just about jumped out of your seat with enthusiasm, or that bubble of curiosity swelled in you and your fingers itched to pick up a pen or get to a keyboard.

My personal experiences in this realm tell me that these are the times where I experience every sense that I possess, known and unknown. I feel it, I hear it, I salivate, I feel my whole body tingle in anticipation, I feel excitement through every part of me, I experience a surge in my intuition, my brain releases those good-feeling chemicals, and my nose is filled with a scent that reminds me of being in kindergarten—don’t ask me why.

When I’m writing, and I’m in the zone, not just trudging through to get to finish line, but feeling the course of creativity running through me, I go into this all-encompassing experience, which is what pulses me forward.

Thus, if we are to take what Elizabeth Gilbert says, that we are the stewards of our senses, in theory, we should be able to have some reasonable control over our creativity.

Well, doesn’t that just sound like trying to herd a bunch of wet cats.

Meditation as a Writing Tool

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Meditation isn’t just what people do to reach enlightenment, or god, or access the Akashic Records. Meditation is a wonderful and essential tool that I truly believe every individual should be taught from childhood.

A Quick Word on the General Benefits of Meditation

I will just list a few scientifically acknowledge benefits of it before I go on. There are plenty of wonderful and more informed minds out there than my own who can express the beauty and importance of meditation.

However, just to list a few benefits, regularly practiced meditation can:

  • Ease anxiety
  • Ease depression
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Boost your immune system
  • Help you think clearer

I’ll also leave you with a couple of links for further information:

And, a client of mine recommends the book, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris (though I haven’t personally read it).

“Boosts Your Self Control”

One of the items listed in one of those articles mentioned above, states that meditation “boosts your self-control.” I couldn’t have put it better myself. Meditation enhances your ability to control yourself. Which is a much nicer way of saying that it’s self-discipline.

The act of meditation stills your mind to focus on one thing, or on no thing at all (not a typo, I certainly meant “no thing.”), which, if you have ever tried to hone in on just one thought or even an image for any length of time without any practice, you’ll find your mind gets pretty squirrelly.

And when you sit down to write when you’re not in the zone? Your mind gets pretty squirrelly. Are you picking up what I’m putting down?

Meditation for Your Writing Practice

Writing can be a difficult task when you’re trying to form the habit. We write because we love to write, because we have a story in us, and we want to get it out in the world. We write because it puts us in touch with our inner world and senses, and it helps us to experience the external world differently.

But that spark of inspiration and creativity doesn’t necessarily stay with us through the whole writing process. In fact, sometimes writing can feel like a chore. And when we feel like that, we experience some pretty severe procrastination, or, as Steven Pressfield calls in his book The War of Art, Resistance.

Mindfulness, or meditation, can be the perfect combatant to this resistance, however it might manifest during your writing routine.

Practicing either mindfulness or meditation can keep you focused on the task in front of you, through regular practice. It will help you gain stewardship over all your senses, not just the ones bringing input from the external world.

Mindfulness vs. Meditation

Depending on who you talk to, these terms are somewhat synonymous. For me, personally, they are not, which is why I’ll share my take on these two terms.

Meditation

Meditation is the practice of quieting the mind, and going into a specifically desired state through persistent practice. Meditation will usually be a structure practice for me, in which I sit in a certain way (though there is no “one right way”), breathe a certain way, and sit for a certain amount of time in stillness.

There is a plethora of books on various forms of meditation from different cultures, religious practices, personal practices, and from a corporate perspective. I won’t recommend any because there are far too many out there. Likewise, there are wonderful apps and YouTube channels out there that offer guided meditations. Other than the steps I offer later on, I can only suggest that you try a few books and channels and apps (but definitely at least a couple books) and find what’s right for you.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the act of being present in the moment, no matter what you are doing. It is keeping a focus on what is going on right in front of you, and only thinking about that one thing, instead of thinking about what might be going on at the office, or wondering if you’ll be able to save enough money for your kids’ college tuitions, or thinking about what you’ll get at the grocery store next week for that potluck. Mindfulness is blocking all that out so you can be fully present in the current moment that you’re in. This can be useful in every area of your life, from your personal relationships, to your work, to your mental health.

There are countless books on the subject, but I personally recommend Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth (though I will say that the first chapter can be a bit of a schlog, the rest of it is pure gold).

Using Meditation and Mindfulness Together

While there are some slight differences between the two, I certainly recommend using them in conjunction with each other. Whether it’s to work on something specific, or to get you through your day, you can use these two as part of your regiment.

Starting your day off with meditation, can set you up for a calmer day, especially if it is followed up with a persistent practice of mindfulness. You can meditate  as soon as your feet hit the floor out of bed, allowing yourself to sit up straight, and spend a minute, two minutes, five minutes, ten minutes—however long you want—in meditation before you completely get out of bed. You can set up a specific meditation space in your office, in your living room, wherever you are comfortable and won’t be disturbed. I’ve even meditated in the bathroom just so I wouldn’t be disturbed.

When you’ve centered your mind, it’s easier to keep it focused on what’s right in front of you when you come out of meditation, and hold that presence of mind, or state of mindfulness, throughout your day.

When it comes to creating, spend some time in meditation for a few minutes, or twenty minutes, however long feels good to you, and when you come out, remain present with your writing.

That’s it. That’s the simple formula.

That being said, meditation and mindfulness come with practice, and that does involve self-control.

Meditations to Try

| A Simple Meditation | White Light Meditation | Grounding Meditation |
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There are so many different ways to meditate. There have been volumes written on the subject, and no doubt, there are many more volumes to come. However, I want to share a few ways I meditate, to show the diverse ways that it can be done.

A Simple Meditation

This is the one that I practice the most. It’s simple and doesn’t take much visualization. I can do it while sitting in the car (NEVER while driving, of course), in a lecture hall, in bed, at my desk—anywhere. Whenever I can spare just one minute, I turn to this one (though, of course, you can do this for longer than a minute).

  1. Sit, cross-legged or not, trying to keep your back comfortably strait, and your arms uncrossed. Crossing your arms can be a guarded position, and by uncrossing them and resting your hands on your lap, you’re mentally shifting to a neutral place.
  2. Breathe in through your nose, feeling the breath extend your belly.
  3. Breathe out through your mouth.
  4. Close your eyes, and focus visualizing a dot, or circle, or vertical line. Really, it can be whatever shape you want it to be so long as it is simple and unchanging.
  5. Hold that visualization for as long as you can, remembering to breathe.

Don’t get frustrated with yourself if thoughts come into your mind. Let them pass by like someone blowing bubbles nearby. Witness them, but don’t engage with them. They’ll pass through. Just keep focusing on the visualization.

Notice your body while you meditate. Try to keep it relaxed. Sometimes when we’re first starting out, we’re trying to hard to visualize that we physically tense up. There’s no need. I promise you that flexing your muscles will do little to keep your mind focused. When you notice tension, release it. Like your thoughts, witness the tension, but do not engage with it any more than releasing it.

With practice, the bubbling thoughts stop trying to infiltrate, and it gets easier. Like any exercise, it’s difficult at first, but is easier with practice.

White Light meditation

I usually practice this one at night when I’m going to sleep, but I’ve practiced it at all times of the day. It’s a variant of a meditation from Donald Michael Kraig, an author of various Kabala books. It’s been so long since I’ve read it that I don’t know if I’ve altered the meditation at all, but it has worked for me over the last fifteen years.

  1. Sit or lay down, with no limbs crossing. Your back should be comfortably strait. If you are choosing a sitting position, keep your knees as close to a comfortable 90-degree angle as you can. If you are laying, keep your legs comfortably straight.
  2. Breathe in slowly, hold the breath for a couple of seconds, then breathe out, slowly. When you feel like you have found a good rhythm of breathing, move on to the next step.
  3. Know that high above you, in the cosmos, beyond this solar system or even galaxy, there is a white light of infinity. Imagine a beam of it coming down to meet you. It gathers into a sphere of white light at the top of your head. The light is filled with peace, protection, love, and calm.
  4. Visualize this ball of light slowly moving over you, down from your head to your neck, over your shoulders, your arms, your torso, your hips, your legs, your calves, your ankles, your toes. Everywhere the light touches, you relax.
  5. Draw the sphere back up your body, sending it gently wherever you feel tension. You can do this in any order you’d like, sending the sphere down one side of your body then up the other side, or by expanding it so that it encompasses your width as it moves. Go with whatever feels natural to you.
  6. When you are completely relaxed, bring the sphere of light back to the top of your head, and hold it there. Remember to breathe through all of this.
  7. Stay like this for as long as you’d like.

If you’re doing this laying down, just be warned, you might fall asleep. This is why I do this meditation at night. It helps me get to sleep.

Grounding Meditation

I find this to be the most creative meditation. I don’t mean creativity-inducing, but just a more creative visualization technique.

You can do this meditation sitting cross-legged, though I find it’s more effective if I have my feet planted on the ground. This meditation does require you to be sitting up, though.

  1. Sit, however you’re most comfortable, and put your hands on your lap. Keep your back comfortably straight.
  2. Breathe in slowly, pause for a couple of seconds, and breathe out slowly. Repeating until you find a comfortable and calm rhythm.
  3. Visualize a silver chord of energy from your core, traveling down through your feet (if you’re sitting cross-legged, down through your spine) and into the ground. It travels deep into the earth, moving like roots, wrapping around rocks, dipping into underground water reservoirs, until it reaches the molten core of the earth.
  4. Visualize bringing that earth and elemental energy up through the roots coming from you, drawing that energy into you and into your core. Feel it nourish you and fill you with connection.
  5. Now, send that energy up your spine, through the top of your head, into the sky, through the clouds, out of the solar system, beyond our galaxy, to the ball of infinite light (talked about in the White Light Meditation).
  6. When you feel as though your grounded energy has reached that sphere of infinite light, then draw down that light, down that chord and back into you.
  7. Sit, feeling the connection between above and below, the energies intermingling, and transitioning through you, their medium.
  8. Stay this way as long as you feel comfortable.

When I’m feeling down or disconnected, this meditation helps me to feel connected to my own personal source, however you want to define that.

A Walking Meditation

This is more of a combination of meditation and mindfulness. I read it in a book by Starhawk years ago, and unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of it, though I’m wanting to say it was Earth Path.

I suggest this meditation for while you’re walking through woods or some other place where you’re not on concrete or gravel, but are actually on dirt, or grass, or something else a little more natural. Also, somewhere that you’re not going to have to be overly focused on your steps, so probably not while you’re hiking along narrow mountain paths.

  1. Breathe in and out, slowly and deliberately. If it helps you, find a way of matching your breathing with a certain amount of steps. Three steps to breathe in, hold for three steps, exhale for three steps. This isn’t a requirement, but it is helpful.
  2. Similar to the Grounding Meditation, visualize silver chords of energy traveling from your core through your legs and to the soles of your feet. With each step, the chord dives into the earth, extending roots into it.
  3. That’s it, focus on grounding yourself through each step.

This helps you be present with your steps and the path you’re on. It helps you to feel the ground under your feet, and in a way, interact with it. This meditation can be awkward at first, and you might find yourself stepping like you’re trying to find couch cushions to keep you safe from the lava carpet, but eventually it feels more natural, and you can do it without much concentration, and far less noticeably.

Walking when we’re in a creative rut is a great way to clear the mind. Combining the walk with meditation and/or mindfulness can be very beneficial.

Meditation and Creativity

Meditation and mindfulness put us in touch with our inner senses. It silences our thoughts, judgments, worries, and distractions so that we can listen to what’s really going on within us.

Many spiritual gurus and practitioners will tell you that meditation will put you in touch with your inner calm and your inner voice. It will be what helps you rise above simply being human to being a spiritual being.

I have a background in Tarot, and as a result, I think of these things in term of Tarot. The Cups is a suit that is representative of the element of water. Water is essential to life, and it is fluid. It can be rough and give you a beating, but it can be soothing and cleansing. This is essentially what our inner workings are. Thus, the Cups represent our emotions, our subconscious selves, our intuition, and most importantly in this context, our creativity.

Meditation is a dive into our cups of water to explore our inner senses, and thus, to help stir up our creativity that might be laying on the bottom of our inner ocean floor. When we still the waters enough, then our creativity can rise to the top, unencumbered.

Furthermore, when we’re in the throws of creating, meditation can help to center our focus when our inner editor or inner critic pipes up while we’re just trying to get our damn first drafts done. Quell it by giving yourself a few minutes of silence and centering, and bring yourself back to a mindful state.

Your Homework

Your homework is pretty simple, though, debatably, it’s a difficult task. All I ask for is a few minutes of your time and for you to give it due process.. It’s a daily exercise for the next 28 days.

  1. For the first 7 days, spend one minute (or more) doing the Simple Meditation when you wake up (the sooner the better), when you sit down to write, and before you go to bed. You can of course do it more if you’d like, but make that the goal.
  2. For the second 7 days, spend 5 minutes (or more) doing the Simple meditation when you wake up, when you sit down to write, and before you go to bed.
  3. For the third 7 days, spend 10 minutes (or more) following this routine.
  4. For the fourth and final 7 days, spend 20 minutes following this routine.

If you find that you like this, keep at it. Play around with it, read books and articles on it, explore what works for you. But try, at the very least, to spend at least a couple days in meditation.

Keep a journal and record your findings at the end of the day. Was the practice difficult? Getting easier? Getting more difficult? Were you comfortable? Uncomfortable? Did it help your creativity? Did you feel better or worse throughout the day?

Let me know what you think and how you find the experience. I would love to know what works for you!

Happy Writing.

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