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Protecting Your Creative Mindspace

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Mindspace. You won’t find this term in Merriam-Webster, but I’m willing to bet most writers know what I’m talking about. The mind is a place where electricity ignites and runs over brain cells creating memory, thoughts, emotions. A mind is its own entity, but when you add “space” to the term, it creates a whole new dimension. Space equals capacity, area, breadth, but it also means BREATHING ROOM. What term could be more perfect for a creative–for a writer–than mindspace? I suppose what I’m trying to hit upon is how much we need both—inspiration, focus, electricity AND plenty of breathing room. Nurturing it, channeling it, protecting it. Yet many of us aren’t very good at protecting our creative mindspace.

In the last year, I’ve found myself going from one task to another, one story to another, without stopping to take time to refill the well. It’s especially difficult as I write to deadline, sprinkled in with my kids’ spring sports schedules (say that five times fast), which also happens to be the same time I’m gearing up the promotion machine for a book summer launch. ALL GOOD THINGS and yet. I’ve struggled to see clearly, to connect to my characters, to pour myself into my manuscript. I feel untethered from my story, when all I want to do is plug in and do a deep dive. I’m feeling the urge to protect the creative pathways in my brain that enable me to write something meaningful. Though I keep trying, I’m failing a lot right now. But sometimes I succeed and manage a blissful streak of pure creative impulse, lots of breathing room, and time to delve deeply.

BUT HOW DOES ONE CREATE and  PRESERVE and PROTECT THOSE PURE CREATIVE MOMENTS?

I’m working on a formula for success and it’s starting to look a little like these tips below:

Write First:  Write first thing in the morning before a.) you’ve consumed information that may affect your mood and send you spiraling into the abyss of how f*cked up the world is, b.) looked at your never-ending list of “to-dos” and inbox and had a panic attack, or c.) felt the urge to schedule something else during the sacred writing time, including lunches, meetings, appointments, phone calls, or even the all-important cleaning the keyboards in the house with Q-tips. Not everyone is a morning person, and I get that, but it’s never EASY to get up early, but the world is quiet in the early morning hours and you, therefore, can be quiet—quietly immersed in your story—too.

Routines:  Change your routine. Sometimes the same ol’ same ol’ doesn’t work anymore. Buck the system! Burn it down! Turn it inside out and see what happens. I’m absolutely NOT an evening writer, but sometimes, I find it helps me get out of a weird slump because I’ve already accomplished everything I needed to for the day and in that evening space, I can be calmer, quieter, more focused. It doesn’t work as a rule for me, but it can have the same sort of effect the early morning writing does. The world is quiet.

Setting Boundaries:  Set time limits to media consumption—all kinds of media. When I mute my notifications for a few hours, I’m infinitely less spastic and anxious, and I’m able to focus for longer stretches of time. Oh, and don’t answer family or work pings or friends while you’re in this protected time period. It’s yours alone, and no one will respect your time if you don’t set boundaries. Make the mute key your new best friend.

Rhythmic Motion:  Exercise helps with expelling stress and anxiety and then all of a sudden, when my load feels lighter, I find myself tunneling into my character’s mind. I recommend, in particular, rhythmic exercises like biking, running, swimming, walking. Coloring and drawing and cooking do this for me, too. It’s the Buddhist way, in fact, to detach and clear the mind through rhythmic motion. Once the pathways are clear, inspiration may flow.

Persistence: Persistence is the dirty secret to success, especially with writing (and publishing). Keep trying new things. Keep pushing the envelope. Keep finding ways to be inspired. If your writing is important to you, you’ll find ways to protect your creative mindspace or you’ll become frustrated and produce sub-par work. You won’t be creating your art.

But I know we’ve got this. We can fight for what’s important to us–the writing and the time and SILENCE to do it properly. We can set those boundaries. Are you with me? On that note, I suppose it’s time to unplug….

How do you protect your writing time? Your writing/creative brain?

About Heather Webb

Heather Webb is the international bestselling and award-winning author of 6 historical novels set in France, including her latest Meet Me in Monaco and Ribbons of Scarlet. In 2015, Rodin’s Lover was a Goodread’s Top Pick, and in 2018, Last Christmas in Paris won the Women’s Fiction STAR Award. To date, Heather’s books have sold in over a dozen countries worldwide and received national starred reviews. As a freelance editor, Heather has helped over two dozen writers sign with agents, and go on to sell at market. When not writing, Heather feeds her cookbook addiction, geeks out on history and pop culture, and looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world.


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About Mary Ellen Bellusci

Mary Ellen Bellusci is a longtime resident of Baltimore, Maryland... A foodie, traveler, writer, and pursuer of happiness.