Mental Yoga for Writers

I have recently been to Billabong Retreat and attended an inspiring workshop on the philosophy behind the Yoga Practice. They are called the Yamas and Niyamas and I realised that they can actually be applied to anything, broad or specific. 

I’m thinking of them for me as a writer…

Yamas

Ahimsa (non-harming) 

I vow to be kind to myself and others, and my characters, even when the evil or misguided ones, I understand their path. I enjoy the journey and do not pressure myself, remembering that pressure is different from commitment.

Satya (truthfulness) 

Honesty in thoughts, words and actions is always in my mind. I accept each of my days’ reality and surrender to my limits. I am authentic in my expression. Before talking I ask myself: Is it true, is it kind, is it necessary? Does it improve on Silence?

Asteya (non-stealing) 

I respect possessions, time and energy; mine and others. I do not invade space or ideas, I don’t rob people of their peace or fulfilment. I don’t rob myself of the present time. I am present, I live the journey.

Aparigraha (Non-attachment/non-possessiveness) 

I am enough, I have enough, I do enough, I let all forms of energy draining thoughts go. I appreciate what I have, what I am. I let go of outcomes and expectations. And I remember that rejection is divine protection.

Brahmacharya (maintenance of vitality/previously seen as chastity) 

I listen to my boundaries and desires, and preserve and respect mine and others’ energies.

Yoga Practices for the Niyamas

Tapas (purification through discipline) 

I am disciplined and “I am stronger than myself” (Clarice Lispector).

Santosha (contentment)

I am incredibly grateful and peaceful.

Saucha (purity)

I organise my writing space, I observe cleanliness of mind, body, energy and surroundings.

Svadhyaya (self-study)

I understand, observe, respect upon and develop my writing.

Ishvara Pranidhana (devotion to a higher power)

I surrender and trust my creativity and the inspiration that comes from outside of me.

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Discipline for the Creative Mind

How can you discipline water? Fluidity? Like trying to make water into a shape but without applying it to a rigid container? Making the inner creative mind to be disciplined is a bit like that.

Applying pressure has the opposite of the desired effect, the more pressure, the less ideas and the further you get from The Famously Creative Flow.

The way is digging the path in front of the water for it to stream through it. There is a commitment to the digging, to creating the path, to the process and the general direction, eventually, once you have created a good height difference and a worthwhile gap for the liquid to trickle into, it will come, it is inevitable. Yet, one must remember that it has its own laws of physics to follow, which may seem inscrutable to the digger, you can’t see the lay of the land where the water is coming from, or predict the weather patterns that will create the rain. But it will come, one way or another, if you keep digging.

You won’t be able to choose what comes, in which way, the amount of it, the quality, the purity… you are but creating the vessel. You can only keep digging, and believing and never stopping, because if you stop, the water pools.

This is the creative process way, inspiration is the water, and keeping at it, writing, painting, sculpting, singing, playing, is the digging of the path. We, creators, can get better and better in using the tools of the trade, the techniques, and dedicate more and more time; increasing the amount of captured inspiration and the flow of it more consistent, but in the end… we have to submit to what comes to us and not compare to anyone else, no processes are ever the same.

This is what I am doing. I have achieved, last September, something I’ve been working towards for a long time: I am working four days a week, at work, and writing (digging) one day a week, at home, plus parts of the weekend, and sometimes after hours…

It’s been six months that I’m taking a day a week for writing. Two writing days have never been the same. I spent most of today preparing the way, writing on clarity of what I’m doing, of my process, on research to support my created world, reading inspirational quotes for writers, and going to the toilet every ten minutes and then, it poured! Deep and meaningful facts and I needed to find out about this world I’m creating on paper, I mean, on virtual paper. Over 4,200 words without blinking. And until it came, there was only dry earth…

I’ll finish with one of the quotes I dug today:

“Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say.” Barbara Kingsolver

Act as If… this is a Writing Day

I am prone to listening to various sorts of… how do I put it, information? There is self-development, but not only that, also TED talks, philosophical books, books about creativity and writing, etc.

I figured, a while ago, that you can’t change your life without changing your thoughts.

I cannot read non-fiction, I get bored, but I love them in audio-books or programs. Recently there was a promotion of non-fiction audio-books and I ended up with nine of them in different subjects. I don’t listen to one, beginning to end, I listen to whatever my mood asks for.

I am listening to two books, one about how the brain works and the other about Aliens. The first tells me how the brain creates conspiracy theories by creating connections that do not exist, because the brain prefers to have a drunken pilot at the helm, a.k.a. shadowy government in control; than having no-one in control or a vessel without a pilot.

The Alien book shows all the proof that Aliens do exist and that there is, most definitely, a conspiracy.

Hard to choose what I really believe in, probably both and neither.

One of my new favourites is Liz Gilbert’s “Big Magic”. I agree with her that Artists create in spite of their hunted soul, not because of it.

One of my old favourites is Mike Dooley’s “Infinite Possibilities” that introduced me to a concept I now use all the time: ACT AS IF.

Today I’m acting as if I had full days of writing and have spent the day exactly as I would if I were a successful, highly paid best seller, and a full-time writer.

Chocolate Tales

A little while ago a colleague installed a chocolate box on my desk for charity, since then I’ve acquired an extra role: people’s consciousness. They come to me to dialogue with themselves, mostly about two things: chocolate and money.

‘Look, I didn’t have breakfast, I’m being naughty.’

‘I don’t know how you can do it, have the box on your desk…’

‘Oh that’s my favourite, we still have it!’

‘I’ll deposit $5 in case I need more chocolate later on.’

‘This chocolate box is bad. But I like it.’

‘I’m coming to look at the chocolate box, to see if I want one or not.’

Person walks away… half an hour later.

‘I want one.’

‘I’ll put some money in okay! I promise.’

‘A-ha!’ (When they found the one they wanted.)

(Uommmmmmmmmmmmm Person comes on an electric scooter.) 

‘Here we go… I just needed a chocolate.’

Person buys a chocolate.

(Person moves away on the scooter uommmmmmmmmmmmmm.)

‘You are to be my witness, here is $5, I’m taking $4 back.’

‘I had a big workout last night, I deserve all the chocolates I want.’

‘I need more chocolate, it’s so bad, can’t wait until it’s gone!’ 

(Looking so happy with a mouth full of chocolate.)

‘I’ll be back’ said to the chocolate box.

They come in a group of 3;place their faces inside the box in a huddle, pulling one or the other out.

‘I thought you liked the cherry one.’

‘No, I prefer this one.’

‘I’ll ask for another box in.’

Writing Travel – How to Organise a Trip for the Writing Soul

It all started with one question “what would I do if I was a full time writer?”. The answer was pretty simple: write, days in a row, all day; if possible, in a nice place.

A long weekend was coming up. I was single (still am) and had no plans for the long weekend coming up and decided to do just that. I chose a mountain nearby, found a Bed & Breakfast, paid with frequent flyer points and spent four days in heaven and finished a book. I travelled with the train, and for that trip, spent very little. Then I was hooked, I am now on my fifth writing trip in one year and a half.

It took me a few more trips to correct, edit and rewrite the book, to get it ready for publishing and I am here, on another trip, working on the book proposal and on my blogs, which get neglected when I’m writing a longer project.

I recommend the travel writing strategy to all aspiring writers who still need to work full time. Make arrangements with partners and children, mothers and friends, make this your time and make it sacred and uninterruptible. I ascribe to Mike Dooley’s precept of “do what you can, from where you are, with what you’ve got”, it cannot fail.

 

What to look for?

  1. What resources do you have, what can you spend?
  2. What type of places and views inspire you the most within your possibilities?
  3. Avoid distractions / do you need a place with no connectivity?
  4. Which sort of place makes you most productive?

Search your soul for your answers and find the resources. At the moment I am cat & house-sitting a friend’s house in the countryside, overviewing green hills, with the sound of a creek in the background and jumping wallabies in the forefront, the sound of birds and crickets lulling me. This is my ideal setup.  Yours might be a busy city with numerous cafes with fantastic Wifi. It might be an ocean view, or a quiet house. Although I love the water, for writing, green hills are even better.

Get the closest you can to your dream. Think of house sitting for a friend, or paying one AirBnb while renting your house out to someone else. It might mean house swapping and looking at a friend’s plastic swimming pool at their backyard. If that is the closest you can get to the ocean, so be it, the different environment, your imagination and your commitment are to be enough enough.

 

No bull, no lies

I have a perfectly nice apartment, with a desk overlooking the neighbourhood, looking out of a large door, I could lie to myself and say I would stay in and write all weekend. It would be so much cheaper than travelling and I could do it EVERY weekend! But, I would be lying to myself. I get distracted and anxious with what I am not doing, not going to the beach or not talking to my friends, the dishes need washing, there is food in the fridge that will go off if you don’t cook it, all 300kg of it, and the clothes might self destruct if you don’t wash them today.

During my writing masters I did that, spent weekends working on assignments and I’ve managed with a great degree of pain. While being away, writing eight hours a day feels effortless.

Remember to think not of what you SHOULD do, but what you DO do. Think of what is reality for you, not what works for other people.

 

Positioning

Make sure your friends and family know the hours you are unavailable, take it seriously and impose boundaries. I love places with limited mobile connection so I don’t feel obligated to answer messages and phone calls. More important than others is to make sure YOU understand the restrictions and don’t let yourself waste days lost in distraction and resistance.

 

The Enemy

Talking about resistance, usually, a writer’s most persistent enemy is her/his own head. The fear about the quality of what we write, the terror of finishing a project, the angst about the research, the character or the plot…

To understand more about resistance, I recommend “The Icarus Deception” from Seth Godin. He explains it perfectly. Work on your internal mindset in advance of the trip. Be emotionally prepared so you can make the most of the effort and time.

 

The Plan

Have a broad plan of what you want to work on. Is it a book? An article? What would you like to accomplish? Don’t be too strict, avoid creating unrealistic expectations that will make you feel under pressure and anxious during the writing time. The plan is just to get you ready to get to work straight away. Once you start, whatever comes of it is perfect.

My plan for this trip was:

  1. Finishing my book proposal to send to literary agents;
  2. Send it for editing and proofreading (hiring the freelancer and sending them the material);
  3. Work on my blogs; so when the agents look at my sites they can see some recent action and a fresh sample of my writing; and
  4. Reserve time for free inspired writing, in whatever inspires me at the time.

 

IMG_3538

Free inspired writing

What I call free inspired writing is what comes out when you are turning off your critical self, sending it off to a vacation somewhere else, far from you, or give it a sleeping pill. To get to it, you must forget all the shoulds, don’t worry about the quality or the quantity, turn off the inner and outer voices that are constantly criticising, analysing, commenting and evaluating. Eliminate judgement, scratch too long, too short, too emotional, too detailed, not enough description, not enough… you got the gist. Let it be, let it be… sing with me.

Free inspired writing is a first-first draft, it is raw and imperfect, full of mistakes and with absurds in logic, but it contains the CORE. The seed of what it will become. And, creating it, writing like that, is the joy.

 

Trust yourself

You need to make the commitment to have your work re-written, edited, criticised, proofread. By yourself and others, pulling up any resources available. It could be writing groups, asking friends to read your material, hiring freelancers, or, if you have the means, paying high-end editing professionals. By knowing that the writing will be put to its highest quality, you free your inner-first-drafter to do the free inspired writing I have mentioned above.

 

Keep the good habits

On the other hand, when writing your first draft, keep some good habits to avoid a proofreading nightmare in the future. At least make sure the ideas are clear, use capitals and good punctuation, set a minimum standard.

 

Mean business

When I get to my writing location I do what I need to show myself I mean business. What works for me is waking up in the morning and getting ready as if I was going to my regular job. I usually dress more comfortably but I still get dressed, put earrings on (earrings mean I’m not naked or sleeping), make my bed (so I don’t feel temped to go back to it and read the day away), have breakfast, make myself a nice extra cup of coffee, get my writing gear to the chosen writing location. Sit down and write for as many hours as I feel like.

What is your signal? What do you need to do to tell yourself that you are here to write? Pyjamas? Lighting a magic candle? A nice cup of green tea with pomegranate? Do it. Make it a symbol to your inner writer that says “ready, go!”

 

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PACKING CHECKLIST

What you need to remember to take with you:

  • Your project notes or file (remember everything you need including voice memos)
  • Your laptop or writing pad or typewriter – your chosen writing instrument
  • Accessories needed: mouse, internet dongle, pens, paper, extra typing tape
  • Power: laptop powering cables, extra batteries for mouse
  • Special screen cleaning wipes
  • Writing/reading glasses
  • Notebook or sketch pad if you use them for support
  • Favourite pen / extra ink (fountain pens) / extra pens and pencils
  • Download any needed research and support material, if you won’t have connectivity
  • Download music for writing; many writers have the right music for the right project, make it ready and available offline. Create the right playlist in advance, if you need it.
  • What item is essential for your highest productive writing
  • Think of food

 

IMG_3523

What is essential for you?

For me, it is coffee. That is why I bought a mini expresso making machine and a portable frother. It doesn’t matter where I go, I can make the perfect cup of coffee. Tea, chocolate, nuts, candles, what is the little thing that works for you? Remember to pack it.

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Thinking of food

Food can be one of the most time consuming and most effective distractions in a writer’s working day. I recommend thinking of food in advance, either preparing a few nutritious easy meals in advance, or researching the food delivery options near the location where you will be staying. I get organised to have a few days of easy food at hand, so I don’t waste too long with meals and can dedicate most of the time to the writing.

 

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Alone and completely connected

Writers are a strange breed… If I told my friends that their holidays would be spending alone writing at least 8 hours a day, most of them would think it’s a punishment. Instead, I feel so connected to the world, to myself and my mission in life, to my real purpose, that I come back happy, refreshed, inspired and can’t wait to start planning the next writing trip.

Right now, I’m on a covered balcony, overlooking green hills. I am listening to the creek’s water music, the birds are singing, a cockatoo is screeching, a light rain is starting to fall… I can smell the grass and the bush, the wet soil; I can see the sun on a far away mountain and the mist crowning another, as a halo, I hear the thump-thump of a wallaby moving nearby. I can almost distinguish the sound of each drop of rain fall, while my fingers fly over my keyboard, and I smile.

These trips make me feel like I’m doing what my soul was put in this Earth to do. I have no idea if that is true or not, but this is free inspired writing right? So, who cares!

Amazon Eats Reviews

Many self-published authors are complaining about the same thing: Amazon deletes reviews.

The issue is, Amazon keeps eating the reviews from the people I know, I had about 8 reviews on my book Simplesmente Gerva and they deleted them all.

I don’t agree with their system. I know people that are related to me or are my friends are biased, but where do you start?

To attract unbiased reviews, you need reviews! With reviews from people you know, you will attract people to buy the book. Some will like and some won’t, but it doesn’t matter as long as you start the ball rolling.

With Amazon policy of deleting reviews I’m left with no starting point.

I’m retorting to begging, and selling my soul, https://taniacreations.com/2016/05/27/lucifer-the-amazon/, the next step might be a bit more drastic…

There I am at a corner, mini-skirt, trashy top, more make-up than I ever used, twirling my purse. A car comes along, a man opens the window and leans to speak to me.

‘How much?’

‘1 review for one hour, 2 reviews for four hours or 3 reviews for the night’

‘Hum, okay, I’ll take the four hours option.’

Cool! The make up certainly paid off! I give him a card with some web addresses.

‘Payment first! Go home, read the books, make the reviews, come back tomorrow, I’ll be waiting’.

Save me from myself, review my books!

Sideways Reality:

www.amazon.com.au/dp/B01DRNHT4G

www.amazon.com.br/dp/B01DRNHT4G

www.amazon.com/dp/B01DRNHT4G

Simplesmente Gerva:

www.amazon.com.br/dp/B00M5NICLY

www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00M5NICLY

www.amazon.com/dp/B00M5NICLY

Fio da Meada:

www.amazon.com.br/dp/B007XAJOFM

www.amazon.com.au/dp/B007XAJOFM

www.amazon.com/dp/B007XAJOFM

Socialise Quietly and Write

Most Tuesdays, after work, I go to a Meetup in Sydney CBD for writers. It goes for two hours and we get together, sit down, and write.

A few people talk and exchange experiences once the clock reaches eight pm, on the dot. Others write until they have to go home. I write until I’m about to drop.

I cannot stop writing, it is usually one of my most productive writing moments of the week. I often get “in the zone” and produce high quality work, writing hard up to nine or ten.

Pumped by a guilty late-night-coffee — which will most certainly keep me awake or make me have an agitated, unrestful night — I think the sacrifice is worth it. Every time I debate, to coffee or not to coffee…

Tonight I have churned some great paragraphs and ticked many items of my to-do list for a specific project.

Trying to write, publish and promote your own books while working full time is a little bit like trying to give birth while driving a horse-cart with a spooked stallion must be. Creating life, giving birth to characters, while your attention is constantly demanded elsewhere…

The road doesn’t end though, so I keep bouncing, reins in hand, YEEHAW!