Writing Retreats: A writer’s place to be

Addo Reach and Hein's Cottage - writer's retreatJust spent a couple of weeks with family in South Africa. My mother’s house, a Bed & Breakfast in a little town called Alicedale, about an hour out of Port Elizabeth, is the kind of place writers dream about when they think about writing retreats. 

The only sound you are likely to hear is the buzz and hum of birds and bees, and random music drifting out of a neighbour’s open door. Peace and seclusion with just enough contact with the outside world to remind you it exists.

It’s in a place like this that you let go of ideas you thought you were wedded to and make new ones that seem somehow braver.

You don’t have to search for a quiet spot in this peaceful place to meditate. All you need to do is sit, and look, and listen to the early morning mist as the sun brushes against it. There’s a sigh in the air at the moment it clears the ground leaving the morning sky blue.

In the beginning, your town and city feet might itch; you’ll find yourself pacing and walking the halls, making tea and noise. Then, on your third day (give or take), things suddenly slow down and you’ll stop watching the clock or the shadows as they shrink and grow then take over for the night.

When you finally accept that nothing is going to happen – there’ll be no noise or chaos, no surprises or mad rushes – then your breathing will slow, your eyes will open and you’ll be able to reach that little bit further into the secret hiding places in your mind where the best version of the writer in you lives.

That’s a place you want to be. It’s the place you want to go to even when the world around you is mad and rushed and crazy. It’s the feeling of slow and still and quiet. It’s the sense of peace that only wide open spaces populated by little more than aloes and elephants can give.

From there, create and write. It’s exactly the place to be.
Hope to meet you there someday soon.
Tina

 

Meditation makes you a better writer – tips from a layman

Can meditation make you a better writer?Have you ever taken a moment to stop and pay attention to what’s going on in your head? Do it sometime. On a random day, at a random time, just tune into the flow barreling through your mind. The noise might surprise you.

You’re likely to find a constant barrage of ideas, commentary, things to do, repeated conversations, wishful thinking, arguments (ones you’ve had, ones you want to have, ones you lost and what you could have done to win). It’s little wonder that when you want to write, it takes a moment to get into it. The writer in you needs a break from the normal chaos in your life. That’s what meditation is for.

Now, how to do it is something else…

The amount of information and how-to on meditation that you’ll find on bookshelves, let alone the net, will add so much to the noise in your head that you’re likely to quit before you start! Views range from “It’s the hardest thing to get right and it’ll take you a lifetime to learn” to “Just sit and breathe and hey presto, that’s meditation”.

Meditation tips from a layman

ONE: I don’t believe you need to twist yourself into a knotted lotus. In my own experience, pain is a distraction. So sit comfortably. Find a spot you can be a little while without falling asleep. I have a chair in our conservatory that seems to be my sleeping chair. No matter what I intend to do in that chair, I fall asleep. Sit anywhere else, and I’m fine – bright, shiny and alert. So don’t try meditate in bed or your sleeping chair.

TWO: Spend what time you can. Even a minute helps. Use the app (see below – there are plenty in various app stores, but I really like this one), set the timer for what time you have, then go Zen. One minute, 60 minutes. Doesn’t matter. It’s better to do one really good minute than struggle to do 60 and end up using your meditation session as a “fret about what I’m not doing” session.

THREE: A ton of stuff will fly into your head from issues in your life to characters and story lines. The whole “empty your head” thing is something that comes with time I guess. I sure as hot-coals-on-bare-feet haven’t got it yet. In the beginning, noise will fill a vacuum so instead of trying to empty your head, find you can’t, get frustrated and give in, focus on your breathing. Really get into your lungs. Make a physical commitment to following your breath – follow it into your body, around your body and out again.

FOUR: Beware of your creative mind! Follow your breath, as above, but you’re a writer so be careful where that little trip takes you. If you find you’ve followed your breath from your lungs, into your limbs, out the soles of your feet, into the earth, through the planet all the way to Australia (or wherever is opposite you on the globe) and into a bar where “your breath” is slinging a few back with the locals, then you’ve lost it! Come back to your lungs and follow your breath in the confines of your own body.

Cool site, an app and a one-minute meditation “how to”

Here are my favourite resources. Hope they help.

ONE: This is a site simple, gentle, no messing site about what meditation is. I find any time I’m struggling with it or just not finding time, I pick a random page and have a read. It’s a gentle site that doesn’t bully you into anything.

TWO: I love this app. It’s called Insight Timer. It’s a free app for Android and Apple. You can join the meditation community if you like, or just use the timer itself. You can set different tones for sessions. A “Piiiiinnnnnggg” to start your sessions and deep, resonating “Bonnnnnnnnnnnggg” to close your session. Up to you! It’s no nonsense and easy to use. Last thing you need if you want a 1 minute meditation session is to spend 5 minutes setting the timer!

THREE: This a really cool little video on how to meditate for just a minute. Time is the biggest excuse not to do just about anything. Well you have a minute! Here’s the truth… When I’m wigging out or just can’t shut my head up, I find a loo somewhere, lock the door, set my timer for a minute and breathe. A minute really is all it takes. Build from there. A lack of time can’t be an excuse. If you meditate for just one minute, chances are, you’ll shut the crazy stuff out your head for hours. Time saved right there.

Happy Zen today
Tina

P.S. If you want to find your characters, you need to be quiet and give them space.

If you want to meet your characters, you need to BE QUIET

Give your characters space and time to show themselves. Be quiet. Still your crazy mind.
Give your characters space and time to show themselves. Be quiet. Still your crazy mind!

Have you ever tried to build a story line, create a character or run through dialogue in your mind only to be defeated by the cacophony in your head?

Arguments you would have won if you’d just said (fill the gap), things to do, plans to make, reminders to be reminded of, insults aimed at yourself or the person next to you…

The definition of MESS is matter out of place. The same definition can be applied to NOISE  as sounds out of place.

If you want to build a story line or create a character or run through dialogue in your mind, you need to clear out the noise. You need to still your mind. You need to shut up. You need to BE QUIET.

The brightest creations come out of stillness. It’s where What’s Possible lives. Connections are made in its silence. Worlds are created there.

Your characters are shy. Few will stand up to the chaos that usually fills your mind. Give them the time and space they need to come out and be discovered.

Happy writing today.
Tina K