Learning How To Rest.
We’re already vaulting through 2018 at the speed of light here on the third coast. I’m not sure where the term “dead of winter” came from, but even though there’s a veneer of snow over most inanimate surfaces, life itself is moving at full tilt and so am I. As most of you, I’m not yet a writer by trade. I’m an accountant, so December through April is, well, a blur. So when Senior Editor Kristina Haider hit me up at the beginning of the year with, “Hey, Minion. I need you to do…” I literally felt my frontal lobe slam against my brain pan. I started a new job with a new company on January 2nd, and this company just started using a new software system to handle a new way of doing business because of new legislation governing – wait, am I boring you? Yeah, I’m busy. Just like you are. A job, a family, side work, how do I manage now to do anything else?
We live in a world that is “on” 24/7. It never sleeps, never stops spinning (which is actually a good thing) and we are pressured to move faster, do more, yada yada yada. The last thing we are encouraged to do is give our brains a break, but that is exactly what we must do if we want to nurture our inner author. Humans simply aren’t designed to move at the speed of light. If we don’t give ourselves a break on purpose, chances are we’ll break accidentally. So over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some ideas on giving your writer brain a break so that when you do go back to the frenzy of typing as fast as you can to move that brilliant idea from neuron to the page, you will be invigorated to do so. We’ll start with the first thing:
I’m not sexist, but men may have an edge here by design. Most males I know truly can disengage, compartmentalize and let themselves have a moment of mindlessness, of autopilot, whereas most women I know make store lists while showering, work out plot ideas while careening through rush hour traffic, catch up on emails while balancing a bank statement (or is it just me); we’re geared to move quickly from interruption to crisis to skull crushing task. Many of us even write multiple things at once. We really need an off switch or at least a pause button. So to that end, here are a few ideas to help you give your brain a break.
Limit your sensory intake and get a good night’s sleep.
Well, duh, Cap’n Obvious, we’ve never heard that before, right? If you have a TV, telephone, PC etc. in the room where you sleep, put your hand up. Yes Martha, technology is cool but it wrecks your body’s ability to get a peaceful night’s rest. If you can’t remove these items from your sleeping space altogether, minimize their impact by making sure THEY are sleeping. Cover their little blue lights with something opaque, turn off their pretty little noises and don’t even acknowledge their existence for at least twenty minutes before you want to be snoring and drooling on your pillow. Trust me. Your smart phone will survive if you don’t touch it before you kick off your bunny slippers and ball up the blankies. If you’re prone, as I am, to nodding off whilst binge watching – pick a night or two when you DON’T nod off to Mulder and Scully. Trust me. Your brain will thank you.
Get a guppy. If you can’t get a guppy, get a water feature. Yup, all you need is one more thing to gum up your precious time, right? Yes. Yes you do. Unless you loathe them – a simple betta in a bowl, is a beautiful thing which when focused on exclusively will give your eyes a treat and your frontal lobe a break. They come in lots of beautiful colors, require minimal care, and last for a few years. Don’t go crazy. My husband and I are ramping up a five gallon tank as I type this. A few green plants, a few pretty rocks, and eventually a few pretty low maintenance swimmers, nothing exotic or fussy. Yes, eye candy in the form of a gilled critter is a wonderful thing to behold not only for you, but its family friendly as well. If it’s too much to consider, find a tabletop fountain. Again, giving yourself five minutes to simply focus on the water is incredibly refreshing to a tired brain.
Try exhaling. Again with the obvious, but stress makes a body hold its breath and brains work better when we inhale, exhale, repeat. Develop a habit of regularly taking a moment or five and just breathing. There are a plethora of breathing ideas on the internet. Find one you like or just close your eyes, breathe in for five seconds, out for ten, and repeat until you feel at least one muscle relax. Oh, and don’t make a store list while doing it. Focus only on counting and breathing.
Take up tree watching. I refrain from suggesting watching things like cars or people or even birds because as writers we are prone to making up stories about things while watching them, so try focusing on something like watching leaves in the breeze or gently moving grass or even sunbeams as they filter through branches. The hard part will be just observing and not developing a plot line. This may be a goal for those more adept at disengaging from active thought.
Most of us don’t have the financial wherewithal to take up bonsai trimming or purchase a sensory deprivation chamber, and lying prone on a beach somewhere is seasonal at best, but if you put your mind to putting your mind at rest, you’re sure to come up with your own unique ideas for giving your brain a break.