Self-care is a buzz phrase these days, and you’ve probably read that it encompasses more than just bubble baths and spa days. If we truly care about ourselves, there are many things we’ll do to ensure our well-being. These include eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep, saying no to extra hours of work if we are not up to it, not pressuring ourselves to be perfect and so on. It’s a whole-being endeavor.
What happens when you don’t take care of yourself? Your concentration goes out the window. Your desire turns into drift.
Lack of concentration can show up in the following ways:
You can see how all of these would affect your ability to get the writing done. Lack of concentration can have physical, mental or emotional causes due to circumstances beyond our control. This post will focus on those things we can control so we can get the writing done.
Get enough sleep
If you want to kill your concentration quickly, sleep less. I’ve had some rough nights lately and ended up with four or five hours of sleep. In the morning after those nights, I found myself nodding off at my desk. Many of those symptoms of impaired concentration kick in almost immediately when we don’t get enough sleep.
If I can get myself into a writing trance after such nights, I can get some work done. But that’s a big if. Also, sleep deprivation has a cumulative effect. It makes you feel worse and worse each day.
For the most part, I try to get seven to eight hours of sleep. It makes a difference. Those nights when my mind is overthinking or ruminating on the past, I need to address it. When I don’t, I don’t sleep well.
It’s important to have a bedtime routine that includes relaxation as well as journaling to help you release any angst or get all the rumination out on paper where it won’t stop you from sleeping.
Feel your feelings
Unprocessed feelings were mentioned above as a reason you may not be sleeping well. It can also directly interfere with your ability to write.
If you’re worried about something or angry or sad, it has a direct effect on your ability to concentrate. Feelings can be consuming. Instead of trying to ignore your feelings, feel them and address what’s going on within. Journal about what’s going on in your life to understand it better. Getting it on the page gives you some distance to gain insights. And simply feeling your feelings helps you move through them. On the other side you may find your concentration again.
You may also feel you don’t know enough or aren’t good enough as a writer. Journal about it to discover how to let these feelings go. Please know that these are just thoughts that are causing your feelings. Process the feelings and realize you can get better at writing and that you deserve to live your dreams.
Ever try writing on an empty stomach? It’s not easy. Every grumble is a distraction. We can train ourselves to ignore the hunger pains as many a starving artist must have done, but why torture ourselves. And in the long run, our health suffers, and that contributes to an inability to concentrate.
We can also ruin our ability to concentrate by eating too much junk food. It’s important to take the time to give our bodies and brains the proper nutrition. Increased concentration, which leads to being a more productive writer, is the result.
It’s known that exercise can sharpen our ability to think and concentrate. It also improves our mood. All of this helps make us better writers.
Sometimes when I’m working on a writing project, I go days without exercise. Increased anxiety and a feeling of sluggishness follow. My concentration goes down some because I don’t feel well. Long term it would probably worsen.
And exercise doesn’t have to be jogging or going to the gym. I walk four to five times a week and lift small weights twice a week. I also try not to sit for more than an hour at a time. I just get up, move around and stretch. It helps to wake me up and refocus if needed.
Our ability to concentrate is key to our success as writers. If you find you have trouble concentrating, take a look at your life and see if you can improve concentration by improving your well-being. Sometimes our concentration is impaired by something more serious than lack of self-care. Be sure to get help if you need it.
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I love words. I love their sounds. I love their meanings. I love how they can be used to communicate ideas as well as create art. They are the medium we as writers work in. It’s important to not only know as many words as possible, it’s important to know how to choose the right ones for the greatest impact.
Here are four ways to choose your words wisely.
Know you audience
The greatest impact comes from knowing your audience. Writers need to know who will read their work. If it’s an academic audience, not only do you have to use the right vocabulary, you need to know how to structure the book or paper. If you’re writing a novel, you need to write at the level of the age group of your readers. There are many things you need to be aware of regarding your audience.
The marketing tool called a customer avatar will help you get to know your audience. Basically, you imagine an individual reader of your work. You describe them in great detail. What do they like to read, watch, etc.? What age are they? Where do they live? What do they do for a living? You can list some basic likes and dislikes. It’s like creating a character for a novel. Use these details to help you understand the vocabulary and structure you need to use to best communicate with your audience.
Use words that work for the project itself
You also have to choose wisely based on the work itself. This is especially true of poetry. The art forms in which you use words as your medium often have internal needs not attached to who the reader will be.
A particular genre of fiction may have its own vocabulary. Be sure to read a number of books in the genre you plan on writing to make sure you understand what is needed. This is also true of nonfiction. You will need to know the vocabulary of the topic you’re writing about.
Listen to your words
For me, writing is all about sound. Even when I don’t read out loud, I hear the words in my head. I have to for them to make sense which is why I could never pick up speed reading.
Whether this is true for you or not, the sounds of words are important. Certain groupings of words can sound clunky and hard to read. Don’t do this to your readers. Take the time to hear what you write. Read it out loud. If a line doesn’t sound good, pick a different word or rearrange the words until you get something that flows.
Pay attention to multiple meanings
Sometimes you write something meaning one thing, but a reader takes it to mean something else. As a writer it’s your job to communicate well. Make sure the words you choose convey exactly what you mean. Sometimes we don’t always catch these problems. Have someone else read your work on go over your own work very carefully.
In poetry, multiple meanings are a great thing. You’re playing with words and ideas in a way that is meant to open up the reader. To write better poetry, it’s helpful to be aware of the multiple meaning of words.
Words are the lifeblood of a writer. Learn to use them well and to choose wisely from the vast word-hoard available to you.
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This New Moon’s energy is chaotic and brings restlessness and loss of patience. We will be faced with things we need to release. It is aspecting Uranus in the sign of Sagittarius, and I began to feel its coming effects yesterday.
I was angry and continually losing my patience. Writing about it helped me release it and gave me perspective. I was really being faced with aspects of myself I didn’t want to see. I took a good look, letting my words become my mirror. The moon represents our hidden nature. It’s the celestial body tied to our subconscious.
We can use this month’s new moon energy to help us breakthrough our resistance to writing. If you are plagued by procrastination, take some time today to delve into that feeling. Let the energy of this New Moon help you reveal what is really going on within. Use your words and journal about it. This is how you will begin to release what is stopping you.
This isn’t easy work, but it necessary work for us to do in order to step into being the writer or completing a written project. It’s powerful work that allows us to live more fully in all ways. Let the moon’s energy help you discover and release all you no longer need. It’s the season of letting go so you can enter 2020 ready and willing to do the work and get the writing done.
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Talk of gratitude abounds this time of year. Fall is the harvest season and in the U.S. we celebrate Thanksgiving. Before we settle in for the winter we take time to be thankful for what we have and all that happened through the year.
Gratitude is sometimes associated with feelings of obligation, but I’m not talking about that, I’m talking about what Diana Butler Bass, in Grateful – The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks calls gift-and-response gratitude. It’s a feeling that naturally arises when we fully receive. We then naturally want to give back by showing our gratitude and sometimes doing more. There is no sense of obligation.
Here is the way I view gift-and-response gratitude followed by the ways it can help make you a better writer.
This is to trust fully in the gifts we are given so we can share them freely. When we share our writing we are gifting others. In turn they give back to us in appreciation and by buying our work.
True feelings of gratitude open you up so you can be filled up. A writer who is closed off emotionally will be closed off creatively.
Writers are observers of both the external and internal world. When we pay attention to all aspects of our lives we fall into gratitude more easily. A focus on gratitude is a focus on life itself. And this is necessary for a writer.
To be in gratitude allows us to transcend our circumstances. When things aren’t going well, we can tap into the well of gratitude and discover the wisdom and strength to carry on with our work.
I’m grateful for the community of writers. When we understand we’re here to help one another and not compete with one another, more opportunities open up for us.
I mention trust above under grace. Grace is to trust in life itself. The more we practice gratitude the greater our trust will be. When we feel safe and secure, the writing flows more easily because we can focus better.
Not only is it important to feel a sense of belonging with other writers, it’s helpful to feel a sense of belonging in the world at large. A sense of oneness with all life helps us feel safe as well as open to all possibility, a flow of ideas and greater creativity.
Because we trust and feel more secure as we practice gratitude, we are more likely to live fully and therefore have a greater potential to realize our dreams.
Gratitude, when practiced in the gift-and-response way, puts us in flow. We find ourselves in a state of grace more often. This is the optimal state in which to get the writing done.
I am grateful for you and being able to share my gift. May you enter fully into gratitude and become a writer who gets the writing done and done well.
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To write a book is to make a series of decisions, which is to say no to some things. That's not easy for those of us who have lots of ideas and see all possibilities. We are open, but we have to learn to narrow our focus in order to make something specific.
You can't worry if what you choose is right. That will paralyze you. You can't live in endless possibility. It will prevent you from developing your ideas and writing a book.
It’s important to not create any drama around saying no to ideas. Simply write down the idea you’re not using, know you can use it in something else later and move on. I know ideas sometimes feel precious. I know developed ideas feel even more so. If they don't belong in a specific work, let them go. Discipline is doing the work without the drama.
The book creation process begins when you choose one idea. With this decision you engage the gestation process. This means your subconscious can go to work on that particular idea.
During the gestation process, no decisions are made. You step into idea generation again. These new ideas are attached to the seed idea you planted into your subconscious by choosing it.
Once those ideas about how to develop the seed idea start to rise to the surface, you get to start making decisions again. You do this through writing down what comes up and sorting through what works and what doesn’t. The idea will begin to form as you write.
There will be other decisions to make such as how the book will be structured and later what to keep or discard. Along the way the decision making process will be engaged. And over and over again, you’ll go into gestation to let ideas develop enough to make better decisions about them.
By the end of this process you’ll have a book from which your ideas can be shared. It’s a long process and it does more than just produce a book. It is transformative. You develop a pattern of making decisions consciously.
As we move through our day we’re making decisions all the time, but most of them are conditioned responses and habits. To create something we have to be conscious. To make conscious decisions over and over again requires us to stay aware and engaged. This ability tends to spill over into our lives. We’ve become a master decision maker.
If you want to write and create books, get used to making decisions. Being a creator is not a wishy washy vocation. You’re the author. Own it. Turn your ideas and message into books so they may help others. As you do so, you’ll begin to realize you’re the author of more than just the words on the page. You’re the author of your life.
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Focus is an integral part of succeeding on your terms doing what you love. And it’s challenging to do so this time of year. Everywhere you look distraction reigns. There’s shopping to do, festivities to plan, parties to go to. It would be so easy to put off working on your writing until next year.
Don’t put off your dreams. The greatest gift you can give yourself this year is to finish your book or at least keep working on it. Whatever your writing project, it’s important to keep your attention on it.
Here are some ways you can stay focused during this busy time of year.
Put writing sessions on your calendar
Forget the to-do-lists. If you don’t already schedule things using a calendar, I highly recommend you start or at least do so for these last weeks of the year.
Remember to make writing a priority. Things like our writing don’t always feel urgent and so we let it go. It’s time to make it feel urgent.
Give yourself an end of year deadline
A sense of urgency can be created with a deadline. Deadlines have a way of really focusing our attention. They help us zoom in on what needs to get done and let go of those things that can wait.
Say no to some things
This is one of the hardest things to do. We hate to feel left out and so often try to fit too many things into our schedule.
Even if we have a deadline, we have trouble saying no to our friend’s party and all those family gatherings. We try to do it all, and guess what? Our writing suffers. We’re tired, bleary eyed and our focus unravels further.
You don’t have to say no to everything, just keep things simple. Maybe the family gatherings can be made into one big gathering. Do you really need to shop so much? And you didn’t really want to go to that cheesy office party anyway.
Tap into your desire and vision
Take a few minutes every morning to tap into your desire to share your message and make a difference. Spend time with your greater vision. Feel the excitement and let it motivate you.
The greatest way to focus your attention is to envision your dream as if it already is. The good feelings move you and you will understand what needs to be done for it to unfold.
Be proactive. Stay focused this season because your dreams matter. The world is waiting on your gift. And when you finally put your words out there and someone is helped by them, you will know the true joy of expression.
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11/4/2019 0 Comments
A piece of good writing holds your attention. You could say it enchants you. Each word flows into the next, allowing the ideas to enter your consciousness with ease. You become so absorbed you forget everything around you. It’s a kind of magic.
You’ve probably also experienced the opposite. A bad piece of writing stops you from entering that trance-like state. It lacks flow. There is no rhythm. You can’t get into it. It reads like a first draft. The words are out of place. Meaning gets lost because you keep getting booted out of a state of understanding so often you have to reread and can’t ever really gather enough information to actually understand the ideas being presented by the writer.
The above paragraph is an example of what doesn’t work. Too many short sentences strung together and then one overly long one leaves you wondering what you just read.
How do you create and enchanting rhythm with your words?
Vary Sentence Length
One of the ways is to have a balance between long and short sentences. Short sentences help you make a strong point as well as give the reader space to breathe. Longer sentences allow you to expound on an idea more fully and help your reader absorb your point.
We can visually see how long or short a sentence is, but the best way to test the flow of a paragraph is to read it out loud. You will immediately know what works and what doesn’t.
Vary the Length of Paragraphs
Online writing uses very short paragraphs and too many of them in my opinion. I know it’s being written that way because people scan more than read online. But not all of us do, and you don’t want to write a book that way.
One sentence paragraphs are okay here and there but shouldn’t make up the bulk of any particular piece.
The best thing to do is vary the length of paragraphs like you do sentences within paragraphs. It’s a kind of breathing in and out, the short and long of it. Reading, just like speaking, needs pauses, quick points and longer parts that allow us to fully enter a piece of writing.
There’s nothing like a blunderingly (see what I did?) placed word to pull your attention away from the words you’re reading. Some words are jarring in sound. Some may not hold the right meaning. Unless you have an intended purpose for an ill-fitting word or you mean to shock your reader, choose words that flow with the piece in both sound and meaning.
We are naturally drawn to that which is rhythmic. Rhythm lives within us. Our bodies have systems with their own cadence and pulse, and they all work together in perfect harmony. We also live in a world ruled by the cycles of nature’s seasons and phases of the moon.
To write with rhythm we need only tap into the flow that already exists. Take a few moments before you begin writing to follow your breath or feel your heartbeat. Catch the rhythm within and your words will flow more naturally.
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10/28/2019 0 Comments
There is the quick way and the not-so-quick way to go about creating space in your life and head. The not-so-quick way may not give you immediate results but will help you create a life where space is the norm. I highly recommend it.
If you want answers now and don’t feel it’s possible to implement the slowing and simplifying techniques into your life at the moment, there is another way.
How to Get Your Ideas Now
There are three things you can do right now to create space in your life and head: meditate; remove or cut back on one activity; and do your menial tasks in a non-thinking manner.
Meditation is a part of the not-so-quick way. Doing it long term is essential to creating mental space that is available all day long, but you can benefit on your first try. Ideas will often show up as soon as you get quiet. No matter how busy you are, you can find 10 or even 5 minutes a day to meditate. Here’s a video of the technique I use. It’s called Shamatha and it works.
Often people think meditation is about emptying your mind. That’s just not possible. Your mind is made to think so you’re not going to stop it, but you can learn how to focus it and to refocus it when you get caught up in your thoughts. Eventually your thoughts will just be background noise and you will be in touch with that part of yourself that notices. When you begin to identify with that part of you that notices, the witness, you will have created space within. This means you’ll become less and less likely to get caught up in drama and be able to look at life objectively. Don’t confuse this with being unfeeling. If anything, you’ll feel more emotion, which is good for a writer.
Another quick way to discover your ideas is to cut back on an activity or cut out one thing all together. You do this so you can find at least 15 minutes a day for your mind to wander. Letting your mind wander is not the same as vegging out in front of the TV.
The idea is to use this time to just sit and stare out a window, go sit in a park or even relax in a coffee shop. Unwind your mind. Let it wander. Your mind is not wandering if you’re thinking about the next task or ruminating over a mistake you made. Bring your focus back to the present and begin again. This is where your meditation practice will help. If you find your mind keeps worrying about getting back to work, find a time after work or extend the time so you feel more spacious.
The third quick way is to do a boring task. This needs to be a task you don’t have to think about like doing the dishes or taking a shower. Traditionally Buddhist masters asked their students to chop wood and carry water. Driving can work, too, but be careful. Don’t fill you mind with how much you hate the chore or obsess on the future. Be present, be calm and your ideas will surface. Relaxation is essential for the ideas to rise from the subconscious to your conscious mind. Basically your mind is in a mode similar to when you’re staring out a window, but this way you can check an item off your to-do list.
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We all have 24 hours every day in which to live our lives. It’s important to manage it the way we want rather than letting others manage it for us. I also believe it’s possible to view it in different ways to get even more from those 24 hours.
Here are five ways we can view time and how to use them to gain more productivity and creativity.
This is the most common way time is viewed. Events happen in a sequence from past to future. When we look at time through this lens, we plan in minutes, hours, days and weeks. The writing we want to get done gets put on a calendar and we show up at a certain day and time to write. This is a very efficient way to work. It’s probably the most intuitive to those of us living in the Western world.
This way of viewing time can pose a problem to creatives because we have to perform on the set day and time. The muse isn’t always cooperative on demand.
The work around is to learn how to get into the right frame of for the muse anytime. It also helps if you consistently show up regularly to write. This consistency lets your muse know you mean business.
Many Indigenous cultures view time as cyclical. They feel there is no lost time because it always returns. They live with such a view because they live within nature. The sun rises and sets every day, the moon moves through its phases every month, the seasons come back again and again.
When you view time this way, you relax. If the moment will come around again, then you won’t miss anything. In a culture where people suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), viewing time as cyclical can release us from this fear. Peace is more easily achieved which is the best thing for our intuition and creativity. And when those are working we’re more productive.
The only issue with viewing time as cyclical is becoming too relaxed which could lead to putting things off. There’s a chance we might become like Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind and say too often that we’ll think about that tomorrow or tomorrow is another day.
Time is limited in terms of our life span, the hours in a day, the days in a year, etc. Viewing time this way can cause stress. We feel we must rush to fit it all in. This isn’t helpful to creativity.
But what is helpful about viewing time as limited, is that it narrows our focus. We realize we can’t do everything. It helps us get selective. This is important in order to be productive and do our best work.
In a spiritual sense, time is infinite. And to view it this way expands our being. It opens us up to possibility and helps us relax and not feel rushed.
To view time as infinite can sometimes lead us to feel too lax in the way viewing it as cyclical can. We need to have a sense of expansiveness and concentration in order to be creative and productive.
Because we can view time in many different ways, it is subjective. We especially feel this way when we’re in the thrall of the muse, diving deep into the flow of creativity. Think of the times when you sat down to work and were so engrossed that two hours felt like 15 minutes.
It’s important to let go of time in order to get into the flow. Time is a concept we humans have created. Events do happen in a sequence, but there are moments when it passes differently for me than it does for you. Those times are when we’re in flow or when we’re waiting for bad news and time feels as though it’s barley moving at all.
When we’re in that deep focus of flow, we’re using time most efficiently. More is accomplished with less effort. Even though we may feel only 15 minutes have passed, we did produce two hours’ worth of work and then some. It feels as though we’ve slowed down time.
By taking all the ways we can view time into consideration, we can better use it to our advantage. Walk the fine line between the opposites. Allow the tension to guide you and help you tap your creativity in new ways and use the tried and true methods to help you be productive and get the writing done.
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There’s a quote about discipline determining your destiny and not desire. It’s true we need discipline in order to get the work done so we can succeed, but discipline that comes from love of what we do rather than force is what creates success. So, we need to begin with desire.
I have self-discipline as the first Success Principle for The Write Magic, but now I’m thinking desire comes first. In my experience, leading from desire allows me to know what to do and have the drive to do it. Feelings drive our actions.
But there is more. Thoughts come before our feelings. So is it our thinking that determines our destiny and not desire? Truthfully it’s not simply one of these but a process of thought, feeing and action that determines our destiny.
But when I really think about it, all begins with a desire, a feeling that is there before words. It’s the language of the soul speaking to us through our heart and our sub conscious in both feelings and images. The words come later. Words are the medium we use to make our desires real beyond our inner world. Thought is a tool we humans developed, but the spell is already cast by our desires and it is through these feelings we are pulled to act in ways that will manifest them.
Thought is not as prominent as we like to think. Thoughts can cause us to feel and we can use them to get the feeling we want and therefore the action we want. But when it comes to living our dreams and responding to the stars aligned in our hearts, our soul speaks first and our souls speak through desire.
Over 20 years ago I discovered the power of asking the question, What do you want? The person I posed that question to had been asking everyone what they thought she should do. When I asked her what she wanted, she lit up. Her desire filled her eyes. There was no more for her to ask. She immediately began doing what it would take to make that desire a reality.
We follow through more easily with what needs to be done when we live from our desire. I began to understand this better when I thought about how I create a powerful piece of writing. When I feel the emotions of the events I’m writing about, I automatically create something filled with emotion. If I were to strategize how to use the right words and structure the writing so it will illicit feelings from the reader, the piece wouldn’t be as powerful. I still have to edit what I write, but the feelings I have as I write guide me to put on the page what is needed. I’m not sure how this works. I just know it does.
So let yourself feel your desire to create and write. Let the pull of the vision guide you to your next steps. When you find yourself having thoughts of not being good enough or not having time and all those other impeding thoughts, stop and get quiet. Let your desire to create speak to you, fill you up and pull you towards your destiny.
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