Today Nimue Brown is guest blogging! Nimue has written a fantastic article about Meditation and Inspiration. Thanks for being here today Nimue!
Meditation and inspiration
By Nimue Brown
One of the most frustrating and depressing things that can happen to an author, is block. Gazing at the blank page and finding you have no words to put on it, is terrifying. I suspect I’m not alone in only being confident that I am a writer during the times when I’m putting words together. The rest of the time, I am at best someone who has written a few things. There’s always that nagging fear that next time, nothing will happen.
Over the last ten years or so of making things up and writing them down, I have had plenty of blocked and miserable periods. I’ve consequently learned a lot about the nature of block. It tends to go with exhaustion, running out of ideas, and not having the energy to chase new ones. When it kicks in the time has come to step back, rest, get some decent down time and pray that those sparks of ideas will return to my head some time soon.
The best way to tackle block, is not when it kicks in. By then it’s late in the day and you’re in for a hard time climbing up out of it. Imagination is not so very different from muscles. You wouldn’t expect to run twenty miles every day carrying a bag full of rocks and only eating alfalfa. Imaginations need care and maintenance in just the same way that bodies do. That’s where meditation can help. It’s also important to remember that bodies and minds are not separate. Good food, good rest, and good exercise are needful to keep not only your body healthy but also your mind, and by extension, your imagination. The stereotype of the author includes an excess of coffee and/or alcohol, nicotine, late nights, feverish working, skipped meals, and a shortage of fresh air. That might work for a little while, but it takes a toll. If you lock yourself away in a quiet room and devote twenty hours a day to writing your epic whilst living on toast and red wine, you will either fall over, go mad, or run out of things to write about. Sometimes all three.
The stereotype for meditation is about as helpful as the stereotype of authors. If you think meditation means getting cross legged, trying to empty your mind of all thoughts, and then finding you can’t and getting irritable, think again. Meditation can be a brilliant creative exercise. You don’t need any kit, and a few minutes grabbed wherever you can in the day, makes a lot of odds. A gentle workout for your imagination is as beneficial as a workout for your body. It keeps you in shape, and it helps you generate ideas. A little time spent relaxing the body, breathing deeply and letting images or ideas flow around a particular subject is easy to do. Rather than going for ‘how am I going to do that next scene’ pick topics that are totally unrelated to your work, and contemplate them. That might mean some quality time spent peacefully interpreting cloud shapes, or watching the wind in the trees. Meditating on the life cycle of a plant, or the flow of a river would be other examples. There are no limits. I find working with images from nature is the most relaxing, soothing option, but there’s no reason to stick to that if it doesn’t agree with you.
For someone entirely new to meditation, a blog post of this length is totally inadequate. About all I can do is flag up the usefulness of time taken out to deliberately ponder in a directionless way. Daydreaming, gazing out of windows, watching the fire or anything else that takes you both out of and deeper into your own mind is a great tool in the author’s kit. Waiting until block hits and then trying to fix it is like waiting until your car engine seizes up to start thinking about oil use. It might seem that there isn’t enough time to get everything done already. It might strike you as being preferable to work flat out while you can, and get that brilliant book written. However, a writing career is more than one book. Being a human being with a rich and meaningful life is also more than one book, no matter how good or successful said novel turns out to be. Taking time to nurture your imagination is a long term investment in your health, your inspiration, quality of life, and your long term creative prospects.
For anyone interested in more detailed information about creative meditation practice, I have a book out – Druidry and Meditation. You don’t need to be a druid to find it useful. However, part of the modern druid tradition is the bardic path – people for whom creativity is central to life. Again, you don’t have to be a formally spiritual person to be a bard, and authoring is very much part of this modern bardic tradition. I’ve included not only material on specific meditations but also a lot of information about how to construct your own meditations, including pathworking. For anyone who hasn’t run into this term before, pathworking is a narrative kind of meditation where you set yourself up with a journey or exploration, usually moving through a landscape. The scope for this as a support tool in world building, is colossal. It’s also a great way to let off steam, or to revive a flagging imagination.
Be kind to yourself. It really does help.