Tag Archives: Inspiration

4 Reasons Why Writers Should Meditate

 

What does meditation have to do with writing?

This is a topic I should cover in full in a future post sometime soon, but for now I’ll say that how you respond to stray thoughts during the rest of your day strongly influences how you respond to them when you’re writing.

Meditation is sort of like strength training for your mind. The process of sitting down to write and struggling to clear your thoughts could be made a lot easier if you practice that skill regularly just like carrying a few bags of heavy things home from the store is easier if you’re already accustomed to lifting weights.

From How to Clear Your Thoughts Before Writing.

woman meditating while her dog looks onWriting this post took longer than I expected, but I’m ready now.

Let’s talk about the connection between meditation and writing.

What does meditation have to do with finishing, or maybe even starting, that blog post, poem, short story, or full-length novel?

Think about all of the mental prep work that goes into creating something. I don’t know about your writing processes, but the things I write rarely slip out of my mind fully formed. A flash of a character appears here and a line of dialogue there. On a different day, the perfect blog post title might show up or I may jot down a funny anecdote that I hope to work into something when I eventually figure out where it fits and whether it should remain nonfiction or be fictionalized instead.

Among its many other uses, meditation is a method for responding to stray thoughts and determining which ones, if any, are worth jotting down.

Find Focus

Person holding a camera lense that is focused on a dirt road through a field. A small patch of woods is in the distance just around the bend of the road. As one of my relatives said recently, “don’t believe everything you think.”

Not every thought that pops up can or should be entertained. This is as true whether someone is mediating, writing, or was just cut off in traffic and is feeling a sudden flash of anger at the person who made them slam on their brakes.

If you can train your mind to see a thought bubble up without feeling the need to chase after it when you’re sitting or walking quietly, it becomes easier to do over time when one is in any number of other situations.

Silence Your Inner Critic

person holding one finger up to silence a french bulldog.I’ve been through multiple periods of writer’s block over the years. In retrospect, some of them were caused by my inner critic speaking so harshly about what I was working on that I was no longer sure where to go next.

By learning to turn away from unwanted thoughts through regular meditation, it slowly becomes easier to write without listening to your critical thoughts about what you’re working on.

I’ve never read a perfect first draft of anything. The further away I move from the expectation that I somehow magically do it right the first time.

That’s just as nonsensical as it is impossible. First drafts always need to be corrected and improved upon. The important thing is to create them in the first place.

A Quiet Mind Is a Creative Mind

Woman wearing purple face paint and closing her eyes as purple smoke envelops her It’s been my experience that quieting the mind does wonders for creativity.

Brainstorming is easier when one can stop and focus on the task at hand. Everything else can wait while you make lists, free write, or use any number of other techniques to get the ideas flowing.

Sorting through ideas is easier when you have plenty of experience gently releasing the unwanted ones as they pop up.

Writing in general is easier when your inner critic’s voice is quiet enough to ignore.

I’ve even found that revising is easier with a quiet mind as well because I’m better able to remember what it was I was intending to say before I compare it to what I’ve actually typed up.

Live in the Moment

a drop of water falling into a blue body of water There are so many things that are out of our control as writers, creative people, and human beings in general.

All we can do is release our work out in the world and see what happens.

One of the most beautiful things about meditation in my opinion is the way it encourages its practitioners to experience what is happening at this very moment instead of worrying about what might occur in the future or ruminating on the past.

Simply breathe.

Pay attention to what your five senses are currently detecting.

Focus on what you can control, and don’t fret about the rest.

On Finding Scope for Imagination During Uncertain Times

“Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive—it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?” – Anne of Green Gables by Lucy M. Montgomery

Anne Shirley has been on my mind recently. When I was a kid, I only ever read the first three books in the Anne of Green Gables series. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I discovered what happened to her in Windy Poplars and beyond, so her childhood to teen years made the biggest impression on me.

She was an imaginative girl who often flipped between bubbly enthusiasm and being in the “depths of despair” depending on what sort of trouble she might have accidentally found herself in.

stylized black and white drawing of woman in white dress touching butterflies the size of large owls. the blue, green, orange, and pink butterflies are the only splashes of colour in this scene.
This isn’t Anne, but I think she would have found scope for imagination in this sketch.

I’m fortunate to live in a walkable neighbourhood, so I can get nearly anything I need here without stepping onto the subway. This has been wonderful during the pandemic as I can walk by a nearby shop and see how busy it is before deciding whether I should buy groceries and other necessary supplies now or wait a day or two when there are fewer people there. photo of man walking down steps. Upper half of photo shows him walking upside down and up a pair of steps. image might be mirrored or something?

It also means that the days bleed into each other. I’m being so conscientious about where I go that I tend to see the same trees, shops, strangers, and even pigeons that I did last week, last month, and approximately a million years ago in March when the first wave of this pandemic hit Toronto.

(No, I’m not joking about the pigeons there. We have a flock of them that has chosen a specific area as their home and always returns to it after foraging elsewhere. I affectionally refer to them as our “pet” birds).

I used to find scope for imagination in things that I only saw and heard occasionally like attending specific street festival or planning an afternoon trip to a park in a different part of the city that requires one to ride the subway or take a streetcar with a multitude of strangers.

Now the only differences are changes in the weather and maybe the occasional new coat or pair of shoes a neighbour might want to show off if we pass each other on the street.

Like most of you, I’d imagine, my world is small, yet there is still scope for imagination here. The outside world might remain more or less the same from one day to the next, but that doesn’t mean your mind must do the same.

Even the smallest changes in a community can be attention grabbing now. The first autumn leaves that peeked out from a sea of green were prettier than they’ve been in years.

Bananas that are submerged in a bright yellow landscape.There are books to read and movies to watch that will take you anywhere you want to go, including places that weren’t accessible to mere mortals at all except through our imaginations!

Art museums themselves might be closed or scratched off many of our visiting lists, but art itself remains.

This is our new normal.

Someday future generations will ask what this time period was like.

I’m taking notes of my experiences. Some of them end up as blog posts here, while others have been scribbled down into a private journal I may pass down to my nephews someday.

Pretending to be a time traveller is another way to find scope for imagination. What is perfectly ordinary to us may be fresh and interesting to someone a century from now.

How would you explain the idiosyncrasies, irritations, and immeasurable moments of our era to them?

That one question in and of itself makes my mind tingle with possibilities.

Where have you all found scope for imagination recently?

I’ll Show You My Drafts Folder If You’ll Show Me Yours

Woman working in home officeWhy, yes, I did write the same sort of post last summer! It was such a smashing success that I’ve decided to do it again.

Last year’s peek at upcoming posts has since been edited to include links to everything that I ended up writing.

Some of the stuff listed below are ideas from last year that I didn’t end up writing then but plan or hope to change this time around.

Once again, I’ll edit this post to include links to the posts of anyone else who decides to write about this same topic. I love getting sneak peeks of what all of you are working on!

 

Title: Mindfulness Exercises for a Bad Mood

Publication Date: August 3

Why: This is something I talked about writing last year. My research into the topic has finally culminated in enough knowledge to share what I’ve learned.

Film poster for The Others. Image on poster is of Nicole Kidman looking scared.

Title: A Review of The Others

Publication Date: August 20

Why: The 2001 film The Others is my all-time favourite haunted house story. I’ve been raving about it here for years and finally found space in my editorial calendar to officially review it.  If you haven’t seen it yet, this is your chance to go rent it so we can gush about it together.

 

Title:Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Favourite Things to Do in the Autumn

Publication Date: September 23

Why: Autumn in Toronto is gorgeous and filled with amazing things to do, many of which are outdoors and therefore will hopefully not be affected by Covid-19. Fingers crossed.

 

Film poster for Us. Image on cover is of protagonist crying while holding a mask that looks identical to her face.

Title: Dodging Doppelgängers: A Review of Us 

Publication Date: October 15

Why: Am I the last person on Earth to see Us? Possibly.  It was still a great deal of fun to watch, though, and is perfect for Halloween, my favourite holiday.

 

Title: Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Funniest Things That Have Happened To Me

Publication Date: November 18

Why: These stories would otherwise never fit into the theme of this site. Their topics range from alternative uses for adamantium (the fictional alloy used to coat Wolverine’s bones in the Marvel universe) to what it’s like when acquaintences get so confused about certain facts about your life like your racial identity that they argue with you about how everything really must work.

 

Title: Stained Property: A Review of The Red Lodge (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Publication Date: December 3

Why: Did you all know that telling Christmas ghost stories was a tradition in England in the 1800s and early 1900s? Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories is a series of those tales. I’ve written reviews of all of them and will publish them in December 2020 and December 2021. This is something I’m really excited to share with you all as some of them aren’t well known at all in our era. And what’s better than shining light on excellent stories from the past? 

Person standing on snowy mountain while looking at aurora borealis at night

Title: Fitness and the Holidays

Publication Date: December 7

Why: Like a lot of folks, my healthy habits tend to slip up a bit over the holidays. I’ve been meaning to talk about this topic for years and decided to finally bite the bullet in 2020.

 

Title: My 20 Most Popular Posts of 2020

Publication Date: December 28

Why: One, I enjoy sharing the posts that resonated with all of you the most. Two, seeing how the trends change over time helps me figure out what to focus on in the coming year.

The number 2020 cut out of white paper and surrounded by confetti

Title: Search Engine Questions from 2020

Publication Date: December 31

Why: The pure frivolity of it all. Some of these search engine questions are hilarious but don’t make enough room to be expanded into a 500-1000 word post. So why not let them shine in a few sentences instead?

 

Title: What I Read in 2020

Publication Date: January 4, 2021

Why: This is something I’ve written about annually for a long time. It’s always fun to take a look back at how many books you’ve finished!

 

Woman reading book while sitting on a stone bench in a forest

Title: Modern Classics Series (tentative title)

Publication Date: Unknown.

Why: Eventually, I hope to start recommending science fiction and fantasy books written in the last 20 years that I believe will be considered classics in the future. I still need to do a lot more reading before beginning this series, though!

 

Title: How to Find Your Way Home in Minecraft

Publication Date: Unknown

Why: I stopped playing Minecraft. Someday when I regain my interest in it I hope to write this post.

 

Rolled up yoga mats

Title: 3 Benefits of Taking a Yoga Class

Publication Date: Unknown.

Why: Even if fitness classes were open here at the moment, Covid-19 and what we know about how it spreads makes this stuff far too high risk for me to take that gamble.

 

Title: Health and Fitness at the Library

Publication Date: Unknown.

Why: *Me glaring at Covid-19 for shutting down all of the cool library programs I was going to promote here*

 

Title: 5 Places You Should Visit on a Trip to Ontario for Canada Day

Publication Date: Unknown.

Why:  Damn you, Covid-19!

I’ll Tell You About My Drafts Folder If You’ll Tell Me About Yours

Robot fingers gently touching human fingersEdited in August 2020 to include links to finished posts. 

It’s been a long time since this blog published a lighthearted writing post, so let’s change that.  Lately, I’ve been gently poking my drafts folder and trying to decide which posts in there, if any, are ready to finish and share with the world.

On a related note, finding an appropriate stock image photo for this post was tricky. It turns out that there is not a lot of demand out there for picture of draft folders!

I’d like to think that if draft posts literally had hands, they’d have five digits just like people do. Yes, I anthropomorphize everything. It makes life more interesting, and also gives me a better reason for using a photo of a robot and a human gently touching each other’s fingers.

But before I get too off track here, let’s talk about draft folders. Most of the time, I have half a dozen or so finished posts sitting in the queue waiting to be published. I also have dozens more posts in various stages of completion. Some of them might consist of a couple of words thrown into my list of ideas. Others have grown large enough to warrant a draft post in the backend of my blog.

Not everything on my ideas list becomes a post, story, or book, but their chances of being written into their final form jumps once I create a draft post for them. This can happen because I need to publish that post at a specific time of the year, or finish reading a book for it (in the case of reviews or recommendations), or have some other experience that would enrich my words.

I thought it would be entertaining to give all of you a peek into my drafts folder for my blog. There are fourteen posts there in various stages of completion or contemplation.

 

1. Title: What It Means to be Human: A Review of Chesya Burke’s “Let’s Play White”

Publication Date: September 5

Why: Earlier this year, Apex Magazine asked for volunteers to participate in a huge blogging bash that’s happening in September. I chose to review this book as my contribution to that bash.

 

2. Title: Autumn Worlds I’d Like to Visit

Publication Date: September 23

Why: This is the final part of a short series of posts I’ve done on books that remind me of specific seasons. It feels right to wait until autumn has officially began to publish it.

 

3. Title: Characters I’d Never Invite to Thanksgiving Dinner

Publication Date: October 14

Why: The idea for this post came from reading my search engine log. I thought it would be great for Thanksgiving (which happens in October in Canada).

 

4. Title: Mindfulness and Difficult People

Publication Date: December 2

Why: It’s a great topic, but I think it would have an even bigger impact during a time of the year when some of us may be spending time with folks we may not normally associate with.

 

5. Title: Fitness and the Holidays

Publication Date: December 16 (tentative)

Why: This is one of those ideas I’ve been playing around with for years. Maybe 2019 will be the year I actually publish it? Every December, I take a two week blogging break. I generally write lighthearted roundup or similar posts well ahead of time for that break, so you’ll see a lot of entries from late December and early January on today’s list.

 

6. Title: Search Engine Questions from 2019

Publication Date: December 26

Why: I need to wait until as late as possible in the year in order to make this post as funny and as accurate as possible.

 

7. Title: My 20 Most Popular Posts of 2019

Publication Date: December 30

Why: Obviously, this is a post I can’t put together or publish until the end of the year.

 

8. Title: What I Read in 2019

Publication Date: January 2, 2020.

Why: It’s not January yet. Unless someone has a crystal ball, I don’t see how I can write a post about what I’ve read ahead of time.

9. Title: 5 Places You Should Visit on a Trip to Ontario for Canada Day

Publication Date: Unknown.

Why: As I was writing it, I realized that my answers were very Toronto-based because I spend so little time outside of my city. I think I need more experience visiting other parts of this province before I can say for sure where everyone should go.

 

10. Title: Modern Classics Series (tentative title)

Publication Date: Unknown.

Why: Eventually, I hope to start recommending science fiction and fantasy books written in the last 20 years that I believe will be considered classics in the future. I need to do a lot more reading before beginning this series, though!

11. Title: 3 Benefits of Taking a Yoga Class

Publication Date: Unknown.

Why: Earlier this week, I had originally planned on taking a yoga class and then blogging about it. I woke up with a sore, spasming muscle that morning and decided it was better to rest my body and try again at a different time. Maybe someday you’ll see this post go live!

 

12. Title: How to Find Your Way Home in Minecraft

Publication Date: Unknown

Why: I’m an intermediate Minecraft player, so I’m still deciding if the Internet needs another post about how to get un-lost in that game.

 

13. Title: Mindfulness Exercises for a Bad Mood

Publication Date: August 3, 2020

Why: People keep finding my blog with phrases like this one. Eventually, I do hope to write a full post about it once I’ve tried enough exercises.

14. Title: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Harry Potter Characters and Socks

Publication Date: September 2

Why: I’ve gotten multiple hits on my blog about Harry Potter characters wearing socks, Harry Potter characters who won’t wear socks, socks that feature Harry Potter characters, fuzzy socks, hand-knit socks, and just about any other sock-related query you can think of that so much as glances in the direction of the Potterverse. I am so tempted to write a full-length post on this topic. Would you write it?

 

Okay, you’ve seen my long list of drafts. I’m editing this post to include links to other people’s draft lists as they share them with me.

Patrick Prescott’s Work on Hold.

Top Ten Tuesday: Inspirational/Thought-Provoking Book Quotes

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Here are some of my favourite inspirational and thought-provoking quotes. I honestly have no idea what else to write in the introduction to this post, so let’s move on to the quotes!

1. “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”  – Neil Gaiman, Coraline

2. “I like to imagine that the world is one big machine. You know, machines never have any extra parts. They have the exact number and type of parts they need. So I figure if the entire world is a big machine, I have to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too.”  – Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret

3.  ““What you imagine as overwhelming or terrifying while at leisure becomes something you can cope with when you must-there is no time for fear.”   – Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster

4. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”  – Leonard Cohen, Selected Poems, 1956-1968

5. “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”  – Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

6. “Whatever comes,” she said, “cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.”  – Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess

7. “Adversity is like a strong wind. It…tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that afterward we see ourselves as we really are, and not merely as we might like to be.” – Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

8. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”  – Oscar Wilde, The Wit and Wisdom of Oscar Wilde

9. “There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.”  – John Green, Turtles All the Way Down

10. “But remember, boy, that a kind act can sometimes be as powerful as a sword.” – Rick Riordan, The Battle of the Labyrinth