7.10.2018

Just Chill

If time is at a premium for you, as it is for most people, you need a method that will allow you to enter the right frame of mind for writing as quickly as possible. The largest obstacle is not feeling dead-headed. It’s making your mind still enough to concentrate. A good way to do that is creating a transition zone between your ordinary routine and your writing sessions.

Back when I worked in a bookstore, I picked up a writing book that contained advice I have remembered ever since: “Try to make your mind completely blank for five minutes before you start writing.” I grasped the point immediately. I knew about the barrage of everyday junk I just can’t stop thinking about. Plus, I knew that blanking your mind is what you try to do when you meditate. I’d tried that during college, and I realized that a practice like that could also open the way to commune with a spirit like the Muse.

So you can try to meditate. I’m not talking about buying a big Indian pillow and dharma beads. I can’t even assume the proper meditation position, because my thigh muscles get in the way. I sit erectly, feet flat on the floor, back straight, in a chair. You can still draw deep breaths in and out through your nose, which is the main idea. If you focus on the very moment the breath enters and leaves your nostrils, your mind will close down.

Don’t worry about the thoughts that spring up unbidden, like a jack-in-the-box: “You have to do your laundry tonight.” There is no right or wrong about trying to be still, no reason to develop another neurosis. You were flooded with those thoughts before, remember, like a parade in an antic cartoon. So if you have a dozen or more of them during those five dark minutes, you’ve done pretty well, I’d say.

Exercise: I feel like a false prophet giving advice about meditation, but I do know one technique that has really worked for me. Put your hands in your lap and curl one inside the palm of the other. Hold them loosely, but as time goes on, try to maintain that curl. You’ll find it not only refocuses you, the touch of your fingers will help keep you calm.

“If we really want to live, we'd better start at once to try.”
—W. H. Auden

Copyright @ 2018, John Paine

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