How To Center And Clear Your Mind For Writing – Ask Anne

by Anne Wayman

pencil sharpener2In comments to the post, Staring Out The Window Is Good For Freelance Writers, Ryan asked:

… how do you center yourself and clear your mind before writing. I’ve had difficulty clearing my thoughts (and) in getting my thoughts out there (on the screen.) I do take pleasure in writing, however it seems like the first 10-15 minutes are lost just trying to figure out how to begin.

Any suggestions or tips?

Cheers,

Ryan

Hi Ryan,

Great question!


First of all, that first few minutes of what I sometimes call pencil sharpening, is not at all unusual. It seems the brain needs a few minutes to focus on the writing. Maybe it’s like clearing your throat or centering yourself. So don’t be too hard on yourself for this.

That said, the quickest way I know to get started on any writing is to start writing!

Seriously.

Just start… even if it’s something seemingly silly like ‘I’m now writing and I don’t yet know what to write.’  Usually that will get me started or help me realize that I’m not ready to write about whatever and either need to do more research or start on another topic, etc.

It’s amazing what happens when we start to put actual words and sentences down, really writing. Often the mind will clear in a marvelous way.


Another truth is that the more you write the easier it gets, and that includes the getting started bit. That’s one reason I sign off with ‘write well and often.’ Practice helps, truly.

It also helps to have some sort of writing schedule or routine. Somehow my mind/brain knows I start writing most days around 7 am, so it tends to cooperate… it’s a habit, a good one.

Finally, I’ve found a meditation practice has helped. I happen to do a Zen meditation, but it’s certainly not the only one that works. Over time a meditation practice seems to help my do any task more easily, including the writing.

Do you have a question about freelance writing? Ask it in comments or send an email with Q&A in the subject line; I’ll do my best to answer it here.

Your turn: How do you get started writing? Do you have a ritual? A method? Share it in comments and let’s see how we’re different and the same.

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Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by wayne’s eye view


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark February 6, 2013 at 4:16 am

I find it helps to free-write for the first few minutes. It doesn’t matter if it’s nonsense, just get it down on paper. It’s a bit like warming up before you do exercise; you need to get those writing muscles limber :)
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annew February 7, 2013 at 8:45 am

Mark, that matches my experience exactly.

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Angie Mangino January 31, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Not having ever been described a morning person, I schedule my writing day to follow my own biological rhythm. The day begins for me with emails with my coffee, easing me into my freelance career and the day. I follow this with exercise, breakfast, and then my writing day begins. The night before I target three specific attainable writing goals to accomplish, and I do these first. This encourages me on with a sense of achievement, as well as helping to continue the flow for the rest of my writing schedule for the day.

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annew January 31, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Absolutely, Angie. We have to write when our body wants to let us… and the bio clock is real… mine starts early and ends early. Glad you’ve found your time… If I started mid-morning like you do, I’d get half the work done ;)

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Amandah January 30, 2013 at 4:26 am

I meditate before I write; clear my thoughts and prepare my day. I also call on my Higher Power to guide my writing and to allow the word to come through me and then to me onto the pages of a Word or Open Office document. :)
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annew January 31, 2013 at 12:16 pm

I meditate regularly and it’s usually before I write, but not for the writing per se… if I get stuck a couple of deep breaths often helps… so does a walk when I can flog myself out of the house.

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Cathy Miller January 29, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Pencil sharpening – I love that! :-) Typically, I have some outline before I start to write. When it’s my own writing (as opposed to client writing), that outline may be in my head and not on paper. It’s high level points I want to make.

But, then I also love to start with no point in mind. Creative Copy Challenge really helped me with that. I just start using the 10 words with no idea where they are going to lead me.
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annew January 31, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Yes, CCC – huge help to getting started. I almost never outline even in my head. Sometimes start with a simple list, but not often.

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