Staying Mentally Agile

One of the challenges I love about writing is having to be aware of the big and the small simultaneously – the wider context and ‘shape’ of a story, and the finer details which make it compelling and relevant. I think if a writer can convey both these aspects in their work, they’re probably doing at least one thing right.

What’s interesting to me is how difficult it can be to remain attentive to the bigger picture and the finer details simultaneously; I guess they require such different modes of thinking that it’s hard to do both at once. In any case, I often find it helpful to specifically split my time between the two whilst I’m constructing a piece.

I’ve discovered a number of activities over the years which I find extremely helpful in relaxing my mind, and maintaining the mental agility needed to flit easily between large and small scale thought. Here are some of my favourites for those of you who may be interested:

Meditation

I first learnt to meditate on a mountain retreat in Switzerland back in 2008. Since then I’ve practised on and off, and it’s always struck me how wonderful it’s been for my mental state and creative flow. I recently read a very interesting article here about the benefits of meditation on the creative mind, especially for writers.

Journal Writing

I started writing a regular journal 3 years ago, and still think it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Aside from being incredibly cathartic, I find the tangible feeling of pencil and paper very refreshing after hours tapping on my laptop. I always treat myself to a high quality Moleskine notebook (no, not actually made out of moles) which are incredibly sturdy and take me about a year each to fill.

Networking and Social Events

I love sitting on my computer researching and writing, but it is sometimes a little lonely and that can be creatively stifling. Living in Brighton, I’m spoilt for choice in terms of regular networking and social events for freelancers and writers, and I rarely pass up an opportunity to go and meet some real, flesh and blood people face-to-face. Absolutely the best contacts, advice and ideas I have received have been from these events, and since freelancers tend to be intelligent and friendly sorts, it’s always great to meet new people and be reminded that I’m not alone.

Exercise

Writing is very cerebral, and in spite of this, can take quite a toll on the body – sore back from sitting for too long a time, eye strain, the danger of RSI, and so on. I’m a healthfood and exercise enthusiast, and especially love running, martial arts and yoga. The harder I am working on my writing, the deeper I feel the need for regular, rigorous exercise as a form of release.

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