Conscious Writing

Conscious Writing: Commitment

Nothing happens unless you first make a pledge to do it. A conscious commitment to your goals is a necessary step for positive change.

Notice the difference between goals and commitment. Without these promises, goals are merely words on paper or thoughts in your head.

For today, make or reaffirm your commitments to your writing. Here are some suggestions adapted from the book:

I commit to continuous learning in my creative practice.

I commit to expressing myself authentically.

I commit to taking responsibility for my practice and keeping my agreements with myself.

I commit to fully embracing and expressing my creativity and to helping others do the same.

Conscious Writing: Thank Yourself

Today’s exercise in A Year of Living Consciously also focuses on your physical body and expressing appreciation for who you are. This can be a tough one for many – myself included – who don’t fit into narrow parameters of beauty.

Let’s apply this exercise to our creative practice too, as cultural appreciation for creatives who aren’t famous, wealthy, or conventionally beautiful is equally lacking.

So, screw that.

Take a few moments to honor your creative self. Give your creativity some silent appreciation for all it’s done for you over the years. Thank it for helping you still your thoughts, calm your nerves, work through trials and trauma, make connections, and feel alive.

Ask your creative self what you can do today to show it that you love it.

 

Conscious Writing: Love Yourself First

Today’s exercise is to take five or ten minutes to yourself today and treat yourself well, whatever that means for you. Sit in meditation, take a hot shower, watch the sunset, or whatever feels good for you.

Take a break from chores, goals, and expectations, and let yourself simply be.

If you don’t take good care of yourself, who will?

Conscious Writing: Your Body is a Wonderland

A Conscious Living practice also works to put you in touch with your physical being as a method for being more in touch with your emotions. For most people, emotions manifest in our body, even when we aren’t aware of them consciously. You might feel your shoulders tense before you realize that you feel stressed. You might feel sick to your stomach before you acknowledge that something is making you feel nervous or afraid.

Hendricks recommends deep breath meditation as a way of connecting emotions to physical sensation. This can work in both directions. When you feel tense or have some physical unease, take slow, deep breaths and try to connect that physical feeling to your emotional state. In contrast, when you identify a moment of high emotional upset, use deep breathing to find how that emotion is manifesting in your body. Where do you physically “feel” this emotion?

What does that have to do with writing?

Staying in touch with your emotional state is a healthy practice that can only benefit your creative mindset. Stress is one of the greatest contributors to writer’s block, so maintaining your emotional equilibrium can help keep your creativity flowing.

You can also apply this directly to your fiction. The better you understand how your mind and body interact, the easier it will be to portray this on the page. Showing how someone reacts to emotional stimuli is much more effective than telling the reader how they feel.

 

Conscious Writing: Rebirth

Today’s exercise in A Year of Living Consciously suggests that we take time to contemplate and celebrate our birth. This exercise recognizes that many of us have trauma dating back to birth or even pre-birth, whether that was physical illness or the fact of being an unwanted child.

Let’s twist this around to make it more relevant to our writing practice.

Think of the moment when you first engaged with the idea of writing as a creative outlet. Maybe you wanted to write, even as a child. Maybe you first thought of writing so that you could share what you learned from a life-changing event.

Remember these moments before someone told you that you couldn’t. Remember the rush of possibility, the joy of creative potential.

Celebrate the fact that you want to create through writing. There is no one to say no. There are no downsides or ambivalence.

You have the right to write creatively and you were right to choose it. You have the right to be here.

 

PS – If you think I don’t need to hear all the things I’m writing…phew!

Conscious Writing: Roots

Conscious Living doesn’t require that we ignore the past. In fact, it encourages us to embrace it, accept it, and honor it, even the parts we don’t like or that we want to change. No matter how we feel about events or people from earlier in our lives, they are part of what makes us who we are. Ideally, we can learn to recognize our past without letting it control our present.

For a writing practice today, consider what elements of your past are integral to who you are today, even if the memories aren’t the greatest. While you embrace your full experience – positive and negative – think of one word that you often use to describer yourself.

I am ­­­­­­­­__________.

Embrace this idea about yourself and take a moment to celebrate it. Consider how this word supports your creative practice or appears in your writing as a theme, motif, or obstacle.

I suspect you’ll discover that this word is an important part of your writerly voice. This strong concept of yourself comes through in the kind of stories you choose to write, the themes you explore, and how you craft your sentences and scenes. Voice is difficult to define and develop, but at heart, voice is who you are.

I write, because I am ________.

 

 

Conscious Writing: What’s Your Potential?

If you’re following along on my Conscious Writing journey, you may feel called towards more meaningful writing or at least a more meaningful relationship with your creative practice.

And certainly, this is a journey. I am practicing this approach day by day. This blog isn’t intended as a lecture, but as a way to remain accountable to the process. I haven’t previously completed the exercises in A Year of Living Consciously and I’m not reading ahead. I’m bringing my attention to each lesson on the day it comes and am practicing reflection and self-honesty.

This isn’t easy. You have to trust the part of you that’s searching for something deeper in your creative expression and listen to what you find.

Hendricks suggests we make the following declaration: I am here today because my commitment to living my potential is greater than my commitment to the familiar.

There are many ways we can reframe that to focus on our writing. Our commitment to living up to our writing potential might mean continuous learning, experimentation, or merely showing up every day because we decided this is important. Leaving the familiar might mean writing with a new or stronger or more authentic voice or writing stories we were afraid to tell. It might mean trying new forms of writing, such as poems or plays, or new ways of telling a story, even though we’re not very good at them.

During the day, repeat this phrase a few times: I am here today because my commitment to reaching my creative potential is greater than my commitment to the familiar.

When you say this phrase, take a few deep breaths before and after so that it sinks into your body and your thoughts. Take a special moment at the start of your writing time today to share this declaration and reflect on what it means for you.

Conscious Writing: Joy and Laughter Too

In today’s lesson in A Year of Living Consciously, Gay Hendricks acknowledges that Conscious Living might sound like a drag. This approach requires you to examine negative emotions and unearth experiences and memories that give rise to those emotions and our bad habits.

Fortunately, the work is also liberating. Even better, it can bring up joyous experiences and help you create wonderful memories. Freed from old thinking and able to express your true self, you’ll feel lighter, unbound from the weight of shame and withheld truths.

I don’t have a pithy connection between this lesson and writing, but I do have something to say about the practice itself.

In this lesson, Hendricks acknowledges that many people believe relationships are supposed to be difficult – hard work, hard communication, hard thoughts and feelings. Instead, he wants us to believe that relationships – despite the need for effort – are joyous, fulfilling, and fun.

Are you a writer who believes writing is a grind? Do you often paraphrase Hemingway’s quote about opening a vein and bleeding onto the paper? Do you relate to Dorothy Parker’s lament that she hated writing, but loved having written?

For today, take the opposite view. Let yourself feel that writing is fun. Remind yourself that you don’t have to write today; you get to write today.

Don’t pour out blood onto the paper, pour out love.

Have fun. Be happy.

Conscious Writing: Eliminate Unnecessary Tension

The concept of Conscious Living suggests that stress and tension are not created by the events we face in life, but when we avoid dealing with them. When you avoid choosing, tension increases. Stress reaches its peak when our avoidance of choice means we also avoid taking action.

Conscious Living focuses on our personal lives and relationships, but our relationship with our creative self can be just as complicated. Is there an aspect of your writing or creative practice that is creating tension or stress right now? Are you avoiding choices and actions?

We don’t usually think of our creative practice as a relationship, but our writing is a commitment. We devote time and mental energy to it. And it doesn’t always respond the way we’d like. When this happens, we have to compromise and adjust our approach.

What might some of our conflicts be?

Are you stubbornly holding on to writing time, even though other aspects of life need your attention right now? Perhaps you have the opposite problem, and you have outside distractions you’re not willing to give up in favor of more creative time. Are you tackling a big research project but don’t know where to start? Do you have a conflict with your writing group that you’re afraid to broach? Do you have a great idea for a story but are resisting working on it? Are you afraid to abandon a project that isn’t working?

If some element of your writing practice is causing you stress, take some time today to reflect on it and deal with it. As a first step, simply accept the situation as reality, just as it is, even if it’s not optimal. Practice saying, “This is how it is for now.”

When you accept reality, the choices and changes you need to make will become clearer.

 

Conscious Writing: Dig Deeper

The heart of living consciously is understanding that we control our choices in each moment. We are in control of how we respond to what we experience and what we feel. When we react unconsciously, without considering whether our choice is a good one or how our choice will affect our serenity and other people, we surrender our control.

Conscious choice isn’t easy. We’re accustomed to reacting immediately when someone angers us or hurts our feelings. We rely on our old protective measures, whether that’s anger, humor, or withdrawal. These habits may have served us in the past but they clog our ability to make better choices now.

Changing this habit requires integrity and honesty, most importantly with yourself. You can’t discuss a conflict with someone else unless you acknowledge to yourself that the conflict exists. You can’t resolve it until you understand how the conflict makes you feel and why.

For complex feelings, acknowledging these conflicts and emotions requires even more practice. Many of us – me included – carry secrets. Wrongs that have been done to us, mistakes we’ve made, people we’ve hurt, humiliations public and private.

How does this relate to writing?

If you can’t be real with yourself, you can’t be real in your fiction.

Self-awareness, self-honesty, and emotional integrity are key to creating stories and characters with depth. You cannot portray the rich, complicated inner world of another person – even fictional – unless you are comfortable within your own. Digging deep into your own experiences and emotions will provide you ideas and insights for your writing. Examine your emotions, name them, and process through them, and you’ll be able to do the same for your characters.

For today’s practice, set aside some uninterrupted time to think about a secret you’re keeping. Write it down. Where did it come from? How have you hidden it all these years? To what lengths would you go to keep this secret? How has it affected your relationships?

Lean into this as far as you’re able, but only that far. Self-honesty doesn’t mean self-harm. If and when you can, go deep. Reflect on your secret without judgment. Discover its layers.

Use your experience with this exercise in your writing. When crafting your next character, consider what secrets they’re keeping and ask the same questions. This secret might be integral to your story or it might be something only you know about your character. Approach this person with curiosity and compassion, but don’t hold back your inquiry.