Today I came back from my walk on the beach in a creative mood. I was able to dig into my novel and my mind seemed to be aware of nothing except my characters and what was happening to them. What a great feeling!
But, as we all know, writing isn’t that easy a lot of the time. What’s made a difference for me is that I’m purposefully drawing on the creative side of my brain – my right brain. The right brain is the feeling, intuitive, imaginative side. And it’s the part of the brain that’s triggered when we meditate or, as I prefer to think about it, when we are mindful.
I spend much of my writing time in what I call left-brain stuff, as I work on a business-related blog and write a book on business skills for writers. So I’ve struggled with switching off into the fiction writing I’m now doing. It’s a different skill set, I’ve discovered.
But recently I came to a realization that there’s a way I can increase my right brain time to enhance my creativity. Here’s what happened: I’ve been studying meditation and practicing mindfulness for several years, as a stress reliever. You might think this is religious, but although it’s practiced by Buddhists, it’s also practiced by people of many religions – and no religion. A good definition, from Wikipedia:
the intentional, accepting and non-judgemental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment, which can be trained by meditative practice.
But with my practicing, I had never made a connection between mindfulness and brain function.
Then I had one of those Ah-Ha! moments while watching a TED talk by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. She told of her experience of a left-brain hemorrhage and how her awareness was switched to her right brain when her left brain shut down. The right-brain experience she described sounded just like meditative practice, mindfulness, awareness of self. I saw that mindfulness is not just woo-woo stuff but it’s actually brain-based.
What I heard Jill saying in this video is that tapping into your right brain can increase your consciousness, make you more aware. Yes, make you more mindful. And, since your right brain is where your creativity lies, tapping into your right brain can, thus, enhance your creativity.
I love it when things fit together! Mindfulness is right-brain activity, and spending time in mindfulness before I write can increase my writing creativity!
So, how do you become more mindful? It has to be worked on, practiced, like anything else in life. We’re used to living in our left brains — don’t forget to take out the garbage – why did Mary not call last night, is there something wrong? – I can’t believe I did that stupid thing. We spend time in our right brains, but we keep getting tugged back and forth. What we need to do is spend more time in our right brains, being more mindful.
The easiest way to practice mindfulness is to go somewhere quiet, and sit and focus on your breath and body and what’s going on around you. What you’re doing is trying to get into – and stay in – your right brain, your creative side. When your thoughts wander, just acknowledge them and go back to focusing on your breath and body and increasing your awareness. I practice at least 10 minutes a day, and I often go longer. I’m by no means an expert, though, and some days are better than others.
Two books have helped me get better at meditation and increasing my mindfulness (think: right brain time). I did a lot of (left brain) research on the subject. This book — Breath Sweeps Mind by Jean Smith– provides an easy, practical way to learn how to meditate/be mindful. It only comes in paperback, but that was okay with me, because I was underlining and making notes as I read it the first time (yes, I’ve read it at least 3 times).
If you want to go further into the concept of mindfulness, in the context of Buddhism, I would suggest Jack Kornfield’s The Wise Heart. Again, I’m giving you the link to the paperback version, in case you want to mark/note (as I have), but this one’s also available in ebook format.
Now, when I get ready to write fiction, I spend some time in meditative practice, to increase my right-brain activity and creativity. It’s that simple. Oh, and you don’t need to walk on a beach to try it.
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