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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

What Kind of Meditation Does Your Writing Need? Depends on What Stage It’s In


In my previous post, I suggested that writers need to alternate between focused-attention meditation and open-monitoring meditation.

In some stages of the creative process, we need divergent thinking, which open-monitoring meditation increases. In other stages, we need  convergent thinking, which focused-attention meditation increases.

(More about stages of the creative process in Chapter 4 of AWB)

Stage 1: First Insight

In this stage, you’re looking for your next writing project or the next phase of a larger project. You wonder “what if, how about, why not…” in search of new alternatives and new possibilities. 

The primary thinking style in First Insight is divergent, so open-monitoring meditation will be most effective.

You want to increase random input by reading widely, viewing widely (art, movies and places new to you) and listening widely (music, people, sounds in natural and man-made locations that you don’t usually listen to), as well as freewriting, clustering, mind mapping, and using other brainstorming methods.

Your primary objective in First Insight is to generate a wide collection of open-ended questions without trying to answer any of them.

First Insight is also where you need to see the big picture and what’s missing — the holes in the whole. So you need deep understanding of your own genre and topics that comes from focused study.

You’ll want to intersperse focused-attention meditation sessions to improve convergent thinking. Experiment to discover what ratio works best for you; I suggest starting with 1 focused-attention meditation session for every 4 open-monitoring sessions.

Stage 2: Saturation

In this research stage you look for answers to the questions you generated in First Insight.

You read, interview people and use search engines, questionnaires, surveys and field research to discover as much as you can topics, characters, setting, your audience, writing craft and anything else relevant to your writing project.

This stage is all about getting the facts, the data and the details and using convergent thinking to make sense of it all. Focused-attention meditation will serve you in this quest.

Stage 3: Incubation

After you’ve gathered so much information, your conscious mind won’t be able to make sense of it for a while. Your main job is to keep your conscious mind occupied with some other thing so your unconscious is free to search for new associations and connections.

Open-monitoring meditation will free your unconscious mind to explore divergent paths.

Patience is essential during Incubation; cracking the egg open early to see what’s happening inside only kills the chick.

If you don’t understand what Incubation is and what to do to move through it, this stage can be very frustrating. Avoid trying to use convergent thinking to force a logical solution too soon, which will make you feel you’re blocked, even though this is a natural part of the creative process.

Stage 4: Illumination

This flash of insight that follows Incubation is everyone’s favorite stage. In this “A-ha” or “Eureka” moment, everything fits together. The solution that eluded you is suddenly wonderfully clear.

Because Illumination is a brief flash, a light bulb moment, you don’t spend enough time here to concern yourself about what style of meditation to use.

Stage 5: Verification

Verification is putting the insight of Illumination into some tangible form that can be shared with others. Whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, you do some sort of pre-drafting imaginative planning —  you dreamstorm, blueprint or “outline” the writing. Then you draft, revise, rewrite, edit, proofread, ask for feedback, read out loud, and repeat. 

When you draft and revise, you’ll draw primarily on divergent thinking and will want to use open-monitoring mediation for the most part.

When you edit, particularly when you’re looking at the overall structure of your piece, proofread, review comments from your beta readers, read out loud and so on, you’ll draw primarily on convergent thinking and will want to use focused-attention meditation.

Pre-draft dreamstorming (as descirbed in Robert Olen Butler’s From Where You Dream), blueprinting (as described in Lisa Cron’s Story Genius) or outlining can benefit from an entirely different kind of meditation. Let’s call that the writer’s trance. I’ll explain more in the next post.

Stage 6: Hibernation

During this the fallow time, your primary task is to recharge your batteries, restore your creative energy and renew your creative spirit.

Open-monitoring mediation will serve you best. In fact, the activities that move you through Hibernation are a kind on-going open-monitoring meditation with your eyes open.

Look at beautiful images or art. Listen to beautiful music. Be in beautiful natural spaces. Garden, walk, sit by a lake, rest, wait. Give yourself time to just be; it’s the only way you can fill yourself up and have something to share again.

As your creative energy returns, you’ll start wondering “what if, why not, how about…” and other open-ended questions. These questions naturally funnel you back to First Insight, when you’ll want to add a bit of focused-attention meditation, but keep open-monitoring mediation as your primary meditation style.

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4 Comments on “What Kind of Meditation Does Your Writing Need? Depends on What Stage It’s In”

  1. andthenwehadcookies August 4, 2017 at 12:46 pm #

    Thank you for your insights. I plan to re-read this information to keep me on track! Excellent!

    Like

    • rosannebane August 7, 2017 at 8:23 am #

      Hello AndThenWeHadCookies, You’re welcome and thanks for your comment.

      Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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