Getting Started: Clearing Your Mind for Writing
How do I center myself and clear my mind prior to writing about photograhy? Today I received this fantastic question as a comment on one of my older posts, New Growth Springs From Old Growth.
The question was from Seo Taiji, who struggles with clearing the mind and figuring out how to begin writing. Read on to see the full question and my answer.
Here is Seo Taiji’s full comment and question:
“First off I want to say great blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind prior to writing. I have had a difficult time clearing my mind in getting my ideas out there. I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips? Thank you!”
I decided the question is worthy of being addressed in a post dedicated to this topic, rather than merely as a reply to Seo Taiji’s comment.
Interestingly, the question could not have been more well-timed, as I’ve struggled recently to find a way to clear my mind enough to complete several posts I have as incomplete drafts, or to come up with ideas for new posts to write.
They say we teach best what we need to learn, so my reply is as much for me as it is for Seo Taiji!
My first instinct was to share a Mark Twain quotation I have sitting on my counter right now: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Sounds simple enough, but sometimes, it can be hard to get clear enough to figure out how to begin.
Often, getting started writing a piece is simple for me, when I have a very clear idea of what I want to write about, such as a specific photographic tip or technique I wish to share. This is not always the case though, so when it is not clear where to begin, I simply JUMP IN. I allow myself a total stream-of-consciousness brainstorm, writing down all ideas which come to mind, without trying to evaluate their relevance, or trying to figure out how they’ll all fit together.
In fact, I almost never try to write the beginning of my articles first; instead, I wait to see what unfolds and evolves as I brainstorm ideas. Often, the main idea of the article becomes something much more or even entirely different than what I originally imagined. It’s a delightful process to simply allow the creative ideas I have to share with the world to be “channeled through me” without trying so hard to be in control of the outcome.
After brainstorming, I begin a draft, and while I do include the introduction, it almost always gets revised once I’m finished. That was the case with this article, because the best intro sentence did not become clear to me until after my draft was written.
That being said, it is not always easy to get through these steps. There are some specific things which can help the writing process flow more easily.
It is no small coincidence that today, just before finding Seo Taiji’s question, I had just come inside from doing about 1/2 hour of yoga and meditation, in the grass, under the shade of a tree outside. This is a practice which is beneficial to everyone; however, it can be especially helpful for getting clear and focused enough to write.
I feel certain that my ability to process and write a clear and coherent response to the question was vastly better than it would have been had I read that question earlier in the day. Prior to my yoga and meditation, nearly 1000 thoughts about different things I need to do, concerns for ill loved ones, and more were filling my head with loud cluttered noise. When I came in after my yoga and meditation, I felt very clear, uncluttered, grounded, and focused. Hence, writing this post seems to be flowing easily, naturally, and almost without effort.
Funny, the original post which prompted Seo Taiji’s question was about one of my very early photographs from 1993, actually taken with film, hand-developed and printed in an old fashioned darkroom, then later scanned and digitized. What is so serendipitous about someone writing in response to that particular photo blog post lies the title of that photograph: New Growth Springs From Old Growth. While I’ve always found that writing comes naturally to me, little did I know that today, I’d be given an opportunity to grow as a writer, by reflecting on just what things help me center and focus enough to begin writing.
My “new growth” is to recognize the value of other activities, such as yoga and meditation, which I often feel I don’t have time for if I want to focus on my photography and blog writing. The reality is, any time spent on ANY activity which helps to clear your mind, ground, center and focus you, will come back to you tenfold in your ability to focus on and succeed at your other endeavors, such as photography and writing.
My “old growth” was that I’ve always known the value of time in nature and doing things like yoga and mediation. My “new growth” is that I recognized how directly these sorts of activities help get me clear enough to not only get started writing, but also to write clearly and almost effortlessly.
Thank you to Seo Taiji for being a catalyst for some new growth for me as a writer, and for giving me a great idea for a new article which will hopefully help many who wish to be more effective in their writing.
NAMASTE Seo Taiji!
By Janine Fugere
As Seen by Janine: Eyes of the World Images