Getting into a writing frame of mind

Our moods have a strong effect on our writing. Happy, sad, angry, frustrated, too busy, distracted—it all plays into how well the words flow onto the page or screen.

This morning, for example, I got up extra early to drive into town for a blood test before breakfast. I was dressed and alert much earlier than usual. The sunrise was glorious, a bright half moon shining over Yaquina bay, clear sky above promising a sunny winter day. It was early, but I felt good. I had had a good sleep and had resolved a problem that had been bothering me.

I had jotted down a writing idea I was eager to pursue. A quick prick in the arm and I was free to eat breakfast and start writing. The words came easily. I could see possibilities, creative phrasing, fresh ideas. I could feel the magic.

I don’t always feel the magic. Sure I can slap words together, but it’s like processing one of those meals-in-a-bag where you open the little containers, pour everything into a casserole dish, microwave it and call it dinner. It’s edible, but nothing special.

So how do you get into a state of mind where the magic can happen? There are ways to encourage it. Having a regular writing practice in which you write at the same time every day helps. My dog has become an enforcer. She follows me around in the mornings until I sit on the loveseat with my notebook. She jumps up beside me, rests her head on my thigh and goes to sleep while I scribble away. If she could speak English, she’d be saying, “It’s time to write now. Stop all this other nonsense.”

It’s important to prepare the atmosphere. Tell everyone in your life that you’re not available during your writing time. Silence the phone, turn off the Internet, TV, radio, everything that makes noise. Brew a cup of tea or coffee, settle into your writing space and take a deep breath.

Often I have no idea what I’m going to write until I get there. I start by journaling, writing down whatever is on my mind. By pouring it onto the page, I’m able to let it go. Try it; it really helps. I’m angry . . . I’m worried . . . I can’t stop thinking about . . . Write it down and let it go. Maybe the very thing you’re obsessing about is what you should write, or maybe you just need to clear space so you can write something else. Be playful. Experiment. Feel free to start something, cross it out and start something else. Don’t worry about whether it’s any good or where you might get it published. Write on paper, on your computer or your iPad, just let words out. If something else calls for your attention, make a note for later.

Some people meditate, taking their minds to a quiet place where all the noise stops or least gets turned down. There are many ways to meditate. The easiest thing is just to become conscious of your breath, listening, feeling, thinking only breathe in, breathe out until you feel the stillness, until you are so quiet you become aware of sounds you don’t usually hear, the refrigerator humming, someone mowing the lawn down the street, the wind whooshing through the bushes outside.

To clear their minds and make way for the muse, some people take walks. Sometimes it helps me to play the piano, mow the lawn or wash the dishes, anything that does not require words. Do whatever works to find that still place where your mind can run and dance on an open field.

Take that stillness to the page and begin with one word, then another. Listen for the magic. It will come.

Now let’s go write.

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