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Find Your Writing 'Zen'

As writers, we try all sorts of tricks to keep us tapped into our creative fountain. With so many distractions through modern technology and the pressure to always be doing something with our spare time, it can amount to a much bigger struggle than our non-writing peers might first assume. And yet, this intermittent connection can affect our writing in detrimental ways. Stilted progress, lumpy plot. The feeling that we'll never scale the mountain at this rate. But worst of all, I'm talking Telling.

Oh deary me, yes, the most cretinous of writerly sins -- for the learning majority. And yet it's true. The less connected we feel to our stories, the less connected the reader feels, too. We write from a perspective outside of the character, not within it. If you are anything like me, I need to thoroughly immerse myself in the character in order to take advantage of my launch window (around 9.30 am every weekday).

A story is much easier to edit if it already contains a substantial amount of Showing, so stepping off on the right foot can be only a positive, wouldn't you agree?

In my live writing group, we tackle areas of writing in clusters that spread over several weeks. So, for example, we begin with exercises that help us to get into some kind of a routine, then we move onto a few weeks of description techniques. I don't teach Showing and Telling as an entity of its own -- because it's so tightly interwoven with other areas of writing, I believe it will come about as those other areas are explored and developed.

Currently, we are tackling forward moving scenes, and part of achieving this technique is through being 'in the moment'. Writing the immediate, not what's come to pass already. Absorbing the 'now' of the story, not the 'then'. At least until the main character, plot and setting is established. There are layers that come later for this technique, for the more advanced writer, but the first stages -- for me-- is about using action and description of what is in front of the character, not what happened to them years before, or yesterday, even.

So how to bring that vital immediacy to scene when our heads are stuffed full of other fluff? Well, this week, it was time to calm the storm. We tried something a little different than usual. It's a method I've used for years, though periodically and in different ways (too much of a good thing can end up flat-lining). I was a little nervous how it would be received by the group, and I proffered a warning on the side of the tin: it is not my intention to turn you all into hippies (though if you wish to sport bell-bottoms and floral head scarves, that is up to you, and I won't think any less of you because of it!)

Lo and behold, despite my reservations, the results surpassed my expectations and everyone agreed it had been a surprising success. We shall definitely use this as a group activity again.

Let me guess -- you want to know what we did, right? Good! Because I think it will really help.

What you will need:

- a quiet room.

- a listening device connected to the internet (earphones optional)

- about 45 minutes of your time.

- a pen and paper or laptop (whatever you prefer writing with).

- loose, warm clothes (if doing this during winter).

1) Sit comfortably on the floor, against the sofa or lie on the bed -- whatever you prefer for relaxing.

2) Set your writing equipment next to you within easy reach. Make sure phone/PC notifications are turned off and, if using a laptop to write, your word processor is open and ready to use.

3) If doing this exercise with a group, set the rule that at the end of the meditation no one will speak until everyone has finished writing. (If they have another room they can quietly go off to and shut the door is a helpful option.)

4) Listen to the meditation below.

5) Towards the end of the recording, after the words "...should you ever need to return to the well of remembering" there are some minutes of music. Use this time to think about the items you visualised and to conjure a first line.

6) When it is finished, do not talk or do anything other than pick up your writing implements and write.

7) Using your first line as your starting point, incorporate the items you visualised in the meditation into your writing. Write until you feel ready to stop, but about twenty mins is a good spurt if working in a group.

8) When you are finished, have tea and cake! (or chai, if you are feeling converted ;))

This should make you much more focused on details and enable you to visualise scenes as an outsider in another skin -- much in the same way as slipping into character.

I hope it produces good results and that you are able to use this technique to find your writing zen. Do let me know how you get on -- I'd love to hear about people's different experiences.

Ciao for now!

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