30-Day Creativity Practice

Source: NASA.gov

Yesterday, I mentioned a return to deep writing and walking meditation. Today, I’m inviting anyone who wants to join me to come along. There’s no pressure and no fee, just building a daily habit. Come join me! here is how it works:

Why Now? Why am I doing it right as the holidays are heaping pressure and expectations on you? For that exact reason–the best time to give yourself some peace of mind and a calming habit is when you need it.

What Is It? For the next 30 days—the time most experts agree it takes to make a practice into a habit—I’m going to return to my practice of deep writing and walking meditation. Both of those practices help me nurture my spirituality, work on karma debts, hatch some creative ideas and allow them to fledge,  and explore the rough ledges of forgiveness and healing.

Art by John Crane Dower

What’s Walking Meditation? There are many kinds. Mine is simple. Right after I get up, while I still remember my dreams, I dress and go for a brisk walk. For the first part I don’t listen to music, talk or sing. I simply walk and breathe and focus on both. For another part of the walk, I listen to audiobooks from a wide variety of spiritual sources–everything from Pema Chodron to an Australian First Nation guide discussing Dream Time. I’ve done this practice for most of the last 30 years, but fell out of the habit and am not doing it regularly. I want that feeling of starting the day by connecting body and soul buttoned up the right way again.

Spirit Launch from NASA.gov

What’s Deep Writing?  It’s different from Morning Pages, although it has a few aspects in common. It’s written in long hand in a notebook or journal. It’s not a set number of pages, it’s built on a time period–15 minutes. It can take place any time of day–but it should be at the same time of day every day. In deep writing, you sit comfortably with your notebook or journal and you write about what is worrying you, bothering you, upsetting you, causing you discomfort or stress. You write about both facts and emotions–steps that brought you to the stress and the emotion you felt—using as many sense as you can. Where in you body you feel it, what color it is, what it smells like, anything that helps you fully explain the emotion. The facts and emotion links your right brain and left brain, as does the act of writing. The result, according to the National Institutes of Health is reflection-in-action and knowing-in-action—you write down problems, develop critical skills, and come up with solutions. Your creativity will stretch and reach for light. You will develop ideas, maybe make meaning in your daily work. It doesn’t happen the first day, but it happens.

Plasma eruption on the sun. Source: NASA.gov

Can I Draw In My Journal?  Yes, but not this one. This is a journal you will not show others, not share, not scan and post on your website. It’s between you and the Spirit of Creation. If you are religious, it is a form of prayer. If you are spiritual, it is a spiritual practice. If you are an atheist, it is an exploration of your ethics and purpose. This is the private work that’s too personal to bring to show and tell. This is a hand-writing journal of the old-fashioned kind. You don’t have to be a writer, you just have to live your life out loud in a notebook.

Is There A Group? Yes, but it’s informal.  If you want to join and get support, add encouragement, talk about something that happened as a result of the journaling–join up. Leave me a comment including your website, and I’ll put you in the Blogroll on the right-hand column of this blog. If you post about your deep writing experience, let me know through a comment. For the next 30 days, I’ll start each blog post with the number of the day and a report/insight/idea from someone (or one of my own) and we’ll build a practice of creative exploration together.

Quinn McDonald is beginning a month of calm in the middle of the busiest time of year. In the words of Hillel the Elder, “If not now, when?”

47 thoughts on “30-Day Creativity Practice

  1. Pingback: A Heavy Weight, Lifted

  2. have been following this journey on my cell phone – finally on a computer where it is much easier to respond – i’m participating as well. hopefully more to share soon

  3. I just found your blog and love this. Another quilting friend recently finished “The Artist’s Way” and reminded me of when I attempted this several years ago. I definitely want to join in. I keep two blogs, one for quilting and one that I just write about life, trips, and such, as not all are interested in my quilting/sewing/and other creative ventures. I am trying to get back to posting at least weekly. I think if I spend more time writing it will help me to get inspired to post more as it will unblock my mind. I hope it is not too late to join.

  4. I try to take a walk each morning–even a short one on busy days–as long as there isn’t ice to contend with. I used to do it first thing, but now I do it before heading out to work–I dump my backpack in the car and walk until I come back to the car and head out. On weekends, I do it first thing (and I prefer that). I don’t have the equipment to listen to anything as I walk, I just walk, look and let my thoughts flow. I often feels like “mental morning pages.” I’m going to add the journaling. I’m not sure when or how long, I’ll probably try a few times until I settle on one that works and feels right. I did morning pages for a while and it was good, but I prefer the walking first thing. My needlework-oriented blog is here: http://moonsilk-stitches.blogspot.com/. I’ve written a bit about my walks, so I suspect I’ll write about this new venture, too.

    • Walking in the morning has a special magic to it. At least for me, and seemingly, for you, too. I don’t have to worry about ice, but it did rain this morning, and that was a surprise! Walking DOES feel like “mental morning pages”–what a great term!

  5. Pingback: 30 day creativity pact « Blue Twig Studio

  6. Pingback: Monday challenge – Creativity pact | lifeofdeb

  7. I’m in. I read your first post and thought “I *need* this, now”. Lots of stressful stuff coming up, so I need the self-care and universal connection. Thanks for doing this, Quinn.

    • One of the fascinating ways our brains work is rationalization–avoiding that which our heart knows we have to do. It can be a struggle. Thank you for knowing what you need. I’m kind of selfish, doing this. I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted community.

  8. Pingback: 30 days of relflection & walking

  9. I’m in as well. I’m going to use this 30 days to figure out my best time for writing and walking. I rarely limit my writing to 15 minutes. Is there a specific reason for only writing for that amount of time?

    • I actually write for 30–but I know that scares people. So I shortened it. In truth, you need to find the time that works for you. For some people it will be 15 minutes, for some 45. I don’t think it will work for under 15–you need to reach a certain pace and groove, like exercise.

    • Actually, I don’t want people to post work from their journals here. That work is too personal and too intimate. What I DO want people to share is their discoveries, tips, hints, and simply encouragement for the process.

  10. What exquisite timing; I’m in! My new writing muse introduced me to your blog, and I’ve been happily exploring your approach to creativity and all things wordy and beautiful. At the same time, I’m still resisting my daily writing practice (which, NOT surprisingly, has been set for 15 minutes). This is the perfect support at the perfect time, and since I’ve been wanting to get back to my daily walking, how utterly magical that that’s a part of this too!

    Hmmmm, I’ll get up and do my walking first thing in the morning, and the writing as soon as I get back. By hand . . . on sheets of college ruled paper because I don’t like the restriction of spines on notebooks, and the quarter-of-an-inch ledge. This will definitely be an additional subject in my blogging.

    Thank you Quinn, cheers!

  11. I have a computer-oriented variant on focus and writing: I often use a computer that doesn’t do windows. Not “Windows(tm)” (although it doesn’t do that either); any windows. It does only one thing at a time, and in full-screen text. No multitasking, no email running in the background, no browser (well it has a browser, but one that doesn’t display graphics, load sound, or present more than one page at a time). It’s pretty much the computing equivalent of writing longhand, and it really works for focusing, whether on writing english or various programming languages.

    By the way there’s a quite a bit of pushback against multitasking in the user interface design field. Just like iPhones and iPads do one thing at a time and that thing takes up the whole screen, there are more and more application programs with full-screen modes and “non distraction” approaches. The new version of Apple’s OS X (Lion) has a full-screen mode available to any application.

      • I think you can, but not in the sense that you have all that much control over it. I suspect my brain continues to work on problems I’ve initiated even though I’m consciously focusing on other things. I say I suspect this because it’s pretty common for me to return to a problem and discover that NOW I know the answer, where previously I didn’t, and I haven’t been explicitly thinking about it. So I suspect some portion of my brain was processing. However, I’m also well aware that this is exactly the interpretation a computer geek would apply to this situation because it’s essentially how current software works. Back in 1890 people had the same experience and couched their theories more in terms of clockwork mechanisms and steam power.

        So anyway SOMEthing is going on, and I hesitate to say “I” was multitasking, but there you go. Multitasking is one way to explain what seems to be a common experience.

        • [giggle] That experience is exactly how creative people explain problem solving. “So I couldn’t figure it out and I did something else, and when I came back to the original project, I knew the answer.” It is *not* what I call multi-tasking, which I actually explain quite literally–doing two things (actions) at the same time. For example, texting and driving. Or making a phone call and driving. You are paying much more attention to one and almost no attention to another. I see this in my classes when people are texting and I ask them a question and I have to repeat it. Or they miss the main point. They are not listening and texting, they are texting and hearing. Different effect.

  12. I am beginning the 30 day practice of intentional writing and walking with you today. I will write for this process at about noon each day….after some studio time and I have dealt with all the “paperwork” processes in my life. My intentional, meditative walking will be after I write. At least that is my current vision for the time line. Please sign me up for the group process.

  13. Count me in for the wellness practice. My favorite time for deep writing is when I first get up and as you say – can still remember my dreams.
    My walking will come later in the day after the sun has fully risen and I can appreciate what I see.

  14. I’m in – 30 days of reflection-in-action and my own variant of a daily walking reflection. I’ll use my blog as a learning journal to pull out the action points and insights that come from the practice. Just what I need at this time of the year!

  15. That’s a wonderful idea – I am setting an intention to join you in this 30 day reflection. A challenge with the hectic busi-ness and stresses of family and work, but exactly why I need to do it.

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