Creative Meditation for NaNoWriMo (and beyond)

Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself. (Plato)

Writing has been compared to an iceberg – what we see in print is only a very small fraction of the whole picture. One of the stratas of ice below the water line is what I call ‘the creative headspace’. The ‘thinking’ or ‘medative’ space where plot intrigues unravel, writer’s block dismantles, characters appear, conversations are had and brilliant ideas appear out of nowhere.

Until I heard Nick Earls and Craig Silvey speaking about  ‘thinking in writing’ at Byron Bay Writers’ Festival in 2009, I had never consciously acknowledged this part of my writing – the ‘thinking’ bit. I say consciously, because I was already utilising the time I couldn’t be at the keyboard to contemplate and explore – there was just no conscious appreciation of it or its value to my writing.The ‘thinking time’ I considered to be an artefact of taking up writing  in conjunction with motherhood. I had less time to spend banging my head on a keyboard, because there was much less time to be spent there, full stop. When I got a chance to write, I didn’t want to waste my time staring at the screen with nothing to put down.

So I got savvy.

I wrote in my head in anticipation of time at the keyboard. When I did get a chance to write, I had something of a story to go with.  It was daydreaming, with benefits! Who would ever have thought daydreaming could constitute,  a stitch in time. A thought explored now pays off in unexpected and greatly expanded ways later.

I now refer to this ‘thinking time’ as my creative headspace.

The creative headspace, is like the well of creativity…  it needs regular maintenance. The great thing though, creative headspace is much easier to maintain than the well of creativity – all you have to do is show up. And you don’t have to go any place special or do anything out of the ordinary. There are a multitude of mundane ways to access the creative headspace. Every day chores, things we have to do have an added (and often unacknowledged) bonus: they gain us entry to a medative plane where our minds disengage and are given the freedom to roam.

You probably already know at least two activities which regularly elicit great ideas or creative solutions. I’m regularly heard saying, my creativity intended for my family to be clothed and fed, because the best story ideas often materialise at the washing line or in the kitchen! There is method in the madness.

Some of my favourite creative headspace activities are:

  • Hanging the washing on the line (this seems to be where all the big stuff goes down)
  • Washing the dishes
  • Having a shower
  • Going for a walk
  • Driving (this one continues to scare me because this is one place I shouldn’t be lost in plot intrigues and on autopilot!)
  • Cooking
  • Listening to music

These are all every day activities, known inside out, which require no brain power (except for the driving obviously!) They can also be combined to heighten conductivity (I drive and listen to music, or cook and listen to music – I even shower to music!) You may have a similar list or a vastly different one. Different activities work for different people. It is knowing what works for you, what can be combined and putting it into action every day, in as many ways.

During NaNoWriMo I work hard to maximise the time I spend in my creative head space – because unlike other months, the need to put words down far outstrips the time I would normally have to ponder, explore, discard, retrieve and rework narratives mentally before the process of writing even takes place. Because of this I capitalise on every potential opportunity to let my mind wander. This keeps my narrative fuelled and negates the chances of writers block. It also means for at least one month of the year we have  fully stocked wardrobes of clean clothes and fewer calls for takeaway meals.

What activities help stimulate your creative thinking? Do you consider thinking a productive part of writing? Or are there more important parts a writer should focus on?

Image via Immadreamer.

6 thoughts on “Creative Meditation for NaNoWriMo (and beyond)

  1. I think the only time I enjoy domestics is when I am percolating a story idea. Vacuuming tends to do it for me, as does changing sheets and mopping floors. When I’m cooking I tend to narrate my actions to myself in a Nigella Lawson voice, so thinking takes second place to sexy inner dialogue about chopping onions and stirring the sauce.

    I think it’s absolutely invaluable to maintain our creativity. I know that when I am in the middle of a heavy semester of business units, I’m as dry as a can of VB at a car race. I need to nourish my headspace with great books, conversation with friends/family and my writer friends, yummy food and the occasional bottle of bubbles.

    So yes I think (ha!) that thinking is just as important to the writing process as a thorough structural edit – if you haven’t really mulled your ideas and characters over and over, then your work will be devoid of life and soul.



  2. Pingback: Tips for Keeping Your Sanity During NaNoWriMo | 1000 Pieces of Blue Sky

  3. Mowing the lawn has always been good for my creative thinking time. I’ve realised lately that my recent habit of listening to podcasts while I push the lawnmower around has been terrible for my writing.


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