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How Do You Get Centered Before You Start Writing? Ask Anne

get centeredHi Anne,

I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.

I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your head before writing.

I’ve had a difficult time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out. I do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be wasted simply just trying to figure out how to begin.

Any suggestions or hints?

Thank you!

Katrice (in comments)

Hi Katrice,

Actually I love getting questions.

First of all, that 10 or 15 minutes isn’t unusual at all, and it may not be a pointless as it seems. There is often what I call a ‘pencil sharpening’ period when, as we shuffle papers, sharpen metaphorical papers, etc., our mind is actually getting ready to write.

If you watch your mind while this is happening you’ll probably be able to tell exactly when it shifts from preparation to procrastination. You don’t want the prep time to extend much beyond a few minutes.

That said, I do have some additional thoughts:

First, I’ve been meditating regularly now for about seven or eight years. I generally sit for 10-30 minutes each morning. A benefit I didn’t anticipate is that I’m usually able to start writing just as soon as I sit down to the computer and take a deep breath or two. I certainly didn’t start a meditation practice to eliminate that startup time, but it seems to have worked that way.

I also have a pretty good idea of what I’ll be working on because I prepare a list of what writing I want to accomplish each week. Generally I do this on Monday morning; it’s more efficient to do it Sunday, but I use the whole weekend for relaxing. I’m currently using a cloud-based program called todoist… strange name, but it seems to be working for me.

I keep myself accountable by posting my weekly writing to do list on the 5 Buck Forum where several others do the same. We sort of keep tabs on each other. That alone turns out to be a pretty good reason to join.

When I’m writing on a big project that takes multiple days or even weeks, like a book, I end each day’s writing knowing what I’m going to write about the next day. I’ll often make a note about what’s next right where I plan to start. When I know what’s next my mind doesn’t insist on much if any prep time.

When, as sometimes still happens, I don’t seem to be able to start a freelance writing project quickly, I find it’s usually because of one of two reasons.

The first is I’m not clear on why I’m writing the piece or exactly what it’s about. This most often happens when I haven’t written a 10 word purpose statement for the piece. That’s easy to fix – I write one and put it at the top of the page. Instructions for the purpose statement are here.

The second is that somehow I’ve tapped into fear. Fear can show itself any time and it can be anything from fear of not getting the writing right to something that has nothing to do with writing at all. Once I recognize that I’m afraid, that may be enough to let me get started. Or I may have to dig down deep and really explore my anxiety and work to let it go.

And once in a great while something I think I want to write turns out to be impossible for who knows what reason. Since it happens so rarely for me – once every severeal years or so – I don’t worry about it much. If it happened even annually, I’d do something about it because I know to my bones that as a writer nothing happens until I write!

What’s your expereince? Do you start writing as soon as you sit down to write? Or do you have some ritual or some mind prepeartion you go through first? 


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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • These are great suggestions. One suggestion that was made to me is to write “morning pages”, which are three pages of longhand writing first thing in the morning. It’s a way to get the mental gibberish out of the way, and when I do them, I find I am more clear-headed. I like your suggestion of meditating, and also planning the whole week’s writing at the beginning of the week. Thank you for a very informative post.
    Valerie recently posted..What Writers Can Learn From Talent CompetitionsMy Profile

    • I know several people who use morning pages, Valerie. Glad they work for you.

  • Good question!

    I meditate in the morning or listen to a Joel Osteen podcast. I also have a cup of decaf coffee. Yes, decaf coffee. I enjoy coffee in the morning, but I don’t like feeling jittery.
    Amandah recently posted..27 Killer Copywriting Posts for Writing Copy that ConvertsMy Profile

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