Thursday, October 9, 2014

Writing In Your Sleep & Creative Napping

Having occasional bouts of insomnia, I have found the art of napping to be a true blessing.  In this article we’ll explore how to use naps and a good night’s sleep as a writing and creativity enhancer.

ASK A GOOD QUESTION BEFORE YOU NOD OFF 

Just before you close your eyes before bed or a nap, ask a question about a current project.  You might ask “What’s bothering me about the character in chapter 4 of my novel?”  Or, “Where am I stuck with the copy for my website?”  You might be wondering,  “What would be the best market for the article I want to write about my recent trip?”  

You need not limit yourself to asking questions about your writing or creative life.  You may have relationship or career choice questions.  You may have questions about your spiritual life or larger questions about your life purpose. This technique will work in any area of your life.  

Your brain is like a search engine, just waiting to begin scanning for an answer to your question.

Try to let go and trust that whatever information you do get is meant to be helpful or guide you in some way. 

PAY ATTENTION TO THE LANGUAGE OF YOUR DREAMS

Once you ask the question, know that the creative process is already underway.  But because it is a creative process, you don’t necessarily know the format in which your answer will come.  

Information may come in the form of a dream.  You may see yourself on a stage performing, with the words you were searching for coming in the lyrics of a song. Or, your dream may be more of a treasure hunt.  Perhaps you see yourself walking along a path, picking up objects as clues to a new direction.

Your answer may be quite concrete and obvious or it may need some interpretation. Sometimes the answer to your question will be more subtle than you expect. For example, if I am stuck with writing copy for my website, I may get an image of tangled string or of something trapped in a maze.  Perhaps I’ve become tangled in my words or trapped myself by making the project too complex. 

The more open you are to the information you receive, whatever the format, the more useful it will be.

BE PREPARED FOR ANSWERS TO COME IN UNEXPECTED WAYS

While dreams and images are the most common ways to receive information from sleep writing questions, be prepared for answers to come at other times.  

There may be times when you don’t remember a dream at all.  Or, you may get no images at all upon awakening.  

However, thoughts or ideas may come to you in the shower, later in the day or while out on a walk.  It will seem as though the ideas came “out of the blue.” 

Keep experimenting and notice what happens.  Try both sleep writing before going to bed at night or prior to a catnap during the day.  

SLEEP WRITING HAS A CUMULATIVE EFFECT

Quite simply, the more often you ask questions and write down the answers you receive, the more information you will get.  If you use this technique on a regular basis you will find yourself getting increasingly better results. 

Over time, sleep writing will give you a new perspective on issues that have challenged you.  It will help you develop a sense of curiosity and wonder.  Keep track of your questions and the answers you receive over time.  You will be surprised at the profound impact sleep writing can have.

By the way, guess where I got the idea for this article?  Following a nap, of course!

Take good care,

 


If you find you could use some help integrating your writing and creative projects this fall, schedule a GRATIS SAMPLE COACHING SESSION via phone or in person to find out if writing & creativity coaching is for you. Phone (800) 552-WRITE, that's (800) 552-9748 or write to me at susan@susanborkin.com to find out more.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I Have a Confession...

I have a confession to make, an embarrassing and quite disconcerting confession. If you read the description of the two upcoming events above, or have been following this newsletter for any length of time, you know how important journaling is in my life. But somewhere between completing my book, The Healing Power of Writing, course work and essays for the graduate program I’m enrolled in, my clients, and summer travel, I stopped journaling. 

HOW THIS HAPPENED

It’s not that I woke up one morning and thought, “That’s it, no more journaling for me!” It was nothing like that. It was more like, “I’ll get to it as soon as I finish my essay (or paper, or book chapter, or…).” It was like, “I’m doing so much other writing (or studying or reading) I can’t do any journaling.” And, it was like, “I just don’t have the energy to do any journaling.”

WHAT I NOTICED 

It was subtle, at first. I began to notice that something was wrong but it was nothing I could put my finger on. I noticed that I felt slightly out of sorts and easily annoyed. Then I noticed a feeling of restlessness; I couldn’t seem to settle down or get comfortable within myself. I began to notice that my afternoon power naps were becoming longer and longer. Finally, I was able to identify the culprit -- low level depression. 

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT

It occurred to me that in order to get out of this funk, I needed to do something, to create some kind of plan, or at least do something differently. One of the best ways of getting myself untangled and re-focused is, of all things…journaling. It wasn’t a question of whether or not I wanted to write; it was more an awareness that I needed to write. I simply could think of no better way to sort out my feelings and figure out what to do to feel better.

WHAT I LEARNED

I began journaling for a few minutes in the morning, easing my way back. The next day I wrote for ten minutes. I began to feel a little bit better. This felt familiar, comfortable, like putting on a well-worn bathrobe. By the third day of journaling, I could feel the tension easing in my neck and shoulders. By the fourth day, I knew what this month’s article would be about. I even remembered one of my all-time favorite quotes about writing: 
"I have forced myself to begin writing when I've been utterly exhausted, when I've felt my soul as thin as a playing card, when nothing has seemed worth enduring for another five minutes . . . and somehow the activity of writing changes everything."
     
 ---Joyce Carol Oates
Take good care,

 


If you find yourself with a case of the summertime blues, contact me for an informative discovery session via phone or in person. Phone (800) 552-WRITE, that's (800) 552-9748 or write to me at susan@susanborkin.com to find out more.

Please jump in and respond on this blog, by clicking the green 'Comments' link just below.


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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ain't No Cure For the Summertime Blues

You might remember a song called “Summertime Blues,” written and recorded by Eddie Cochran and later recorded by Alan Jackson. The lyrics tell the story of a teenager bemoaning his plight---having to work at a summer job.  The catchy refrain is of course; “Ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling a bit of the summertime blues the last few days as I realize how quickly the summer seems to have flown by! 

I invite you to join me and shake off the summertime blues. Get creative with these last few weeks of summer before school starts and fall programs begin. 

Grab your journal to make notes and find a quiet, private spot.  Then try these three ways to savor what remains of these precious summer days.

SAVOR THE MEMORY


When you’ve settled in, close your eyes and take several deep breaths.  Let your breathing slow and deepen.  Now, remember three absolutely favorite moments of the summer so far. 

One of mine was watching my grandsons play with a Lego set with intense concentration and total involvement in their task.  What do you remember?  A walk on the beach as a cold wave lapped at your ankles?  Cotton candy at a state fair tasting just as good as you remembered it from childhood?  Pause, remember and make some notes.

SAVOR THE PRESENT


Today, right now, stop whatever you are doing (even reading this article!)  What are you aware of?  What do you notice as you look around?  What do you see that brings you pleasure?

I’m sitting in my office as I write this, a Steven Halpern CD, in the background.  I stop for a moment and let the music wash over me; hearing each individual instrument and the harmony as the sounds meld.  I smile as I look more closely at a portrait on a wall calendar, seeing details in the picture I never noticed before.  Stay present with your experience.  Then, make some notes.

SAVOR THE FUTURE

As you settle, become more relaxed and take a couple of deep breaths, use your imagination and think of something coming up in the near future.  Are you going camping in the woods next weekend?  Are you anticipating an exceptionally  mouth-watering meal?

As I close my eyes, I think about getting back to a laugh out loud book I have been reading.  I think of the farmer’s market I’ll shop at in a few days and the taste of ripe strawberries.  Write down what you anticipate and increase the depth of your savoring.

You get the idea.  So, is there a cure for the summertime blues?  Try savoring your experiences - before, after and during.  It’s practically guaranteed to cure the summertime blues!

Take good care,

 



If you find yourself with a case of the summertime blues, contact me for an informative discovery session via phone or in person. Phone (800) 552-WRITE, that's (800) 552-9748 or write to me at susan@susanborkin.com to find out more.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Vacation Perspective

Even if you don’t actually have a summer vacation planned, it’s still possible to make use of the vacation perspective.  What I mean by that is to use taking a vacation, a weekend away or even an afternoon hike to gain perspective on your life, goals, plans and daily activities.

Try this.  If you’ve recently returned from a vacation or are planning one in the near future or have a get away weekend or daytime outing planned, consider being on the lookout for a new perspective on your return.
First, plan ahead.  Be open to seeing your life, home, work, relationships, or daily activities from a new point of view.

Here are some examples:
  • Am I enjoying the physical space I’m living in?
  • Am I keeping the schedule I want to be keeping?
  • What do I want to be doing more of?
  • What do I want to be doing less of?
  • What’s missing for me in my home or office?
  • Am I spending time with the people I want to be spending time with?
  • Am I doing work I love and is it satisfying to me?
  • What changes do I need to be making in other areas of my life?
Second, be prepared to take notes very soon after returning from your vacation, weekend away or daylong outing.  Write down the first reactions of what you see or think about.

Here are some ideas:

  • How long have those piles of clothes, books and papers been sitting in the corner?
  • I just looked at my calendar for the week and notice there is no down time for me!
  • I loved reading 4 books at the beach.  How can I schedule more time to read?
  • I notice I’m avoiding returning certain phone calls.  What’s going on here?
  • I’m feeling really refreshed and energized from my trip.  What can I do to retain that feeling?
  • Am I getting enough rest?  Maybe I need change the time I go to bed or get up in the morning. 
  • Maybe it’s time to consider a job that makes me happier.
Third, set aside some time to do some thoughtful analysis. This is important to do.  The “newness” of your vacation perspective will disappear quickly.

Here are some sample remarks:
  • I can’t afford to paint right now, but a new plant might spruce up the living room.  There are probably other small things I can do to fix up my apartment.
  • I need to schedule in more recreational and downtime during the week.
  • I need to set better boundaries between work and play.
  • There are people I want to be connecting with and I’ve gotten out-of touch.  I want to begin to re-connect. 
  • I think I’ve been avoiding some calls because I hate telling people “No.”
Fourth, schedule time to make the changes you’ve become aware of in this process. Break down each change into specific tasks and schedule time to do them.

Here are several ways to organize your follow-up tasks:
  • Use your planner, to block out specific time to do tasks.  Even if you need to adjust the time later, at least you’re now more conscious of what needs to be done. Tasks are more likely to be completed when written down.
  • Create mind maps for projects.  It’s a great way to make sure you’re not skipping any steps.
  • Use open-ended lists to add new ideas and tasks as they come to you.
  • Create a simple collage or find a picture representing completion of your tasks and projects to keep yourself focused and motivated.
Enjoy your summer vacation plans.  Remember to get even more from your time away by using “vacation perspective” when you return.

Take good care,

 



If you find yourself wanting some support on gaining perspective on your life, contact me for an informative discovery session via phone or in person. Phone (800) 552-WRITE, that's (800) 552-9748 or write to me at susan@susanborkin.com to find out more.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Your Best Possible Self

In my introductory message I mentioned some research I recently came across about writing about your best possible self. Laura King, a researcher at Southern Methodist University found that by writing about your best possible self in the future, you can feel significantly better both emotionally and physically.

Here’s how it works:  At least four times a week, spend 20 minutes imagining your life in the future. Think about what it would be like if everything had gone as well as possible. Imagine that you have accomplished all your life goals. Imagine that you have fulfilled your life dreams. Write down what you have visualized.

Health:
Imagine yourself being in the best possible health. How do you feel? How is your energy? How do you feel when you get up in the morning? Are you at your optimal weight? What does that feel like? Are you exercising regularly? How does your body feel? How do you feel in your body?

Relationships, Family, and Friends:
Imagine yourself being in the relationships you have always dreamed about. Are you with a significant other? Or are you enjoying the solitude of living on your own? Do you have children? Grandchildren? How are things going with your children. What are relationships like with members of your family? Do you have friends who care about you and friends you care about? Are you on good terms with those people important to you?

Work and Professional Life:
Are you doing work you love? Does it feel like you are doing the work you are here to do? Is your work satisfying? Do you have an opportunity to continuously learn and grow in your field? Do you have good relationships with colleagues, business associates, and co-workers?

Spiritual Life:

Are you happy with your spiritual life? Do you feel at peace with yourself? Do you feel supported by something beyond yourself? Do you feel as though you are on your true life’s path?

Finances:
Are your finances in good order? Are your bills paid and are you debt-free? Have you made wise investments? Do you feel comfortable with what you have; are you able to live the lifestyle you desire?

Leisure Time and Recreation: 
Do you take time for yourself to vacation and play? Do you have sufficient down time? Do you do quality activities in your leisure time? Is your leisure time balanced with work? 

These are only suggestions to spark your imagination. If you are up for the challenge this month, take about 20 minutes a day, three or four times a week and spend some time imagining how it would feel to look back having lived the life of your dreams. In the next four weeks, notice if your feelings change in any way.

Have fun!

Take good care,

 


If you find yourself wanting some support or help in discovering your best self, contact me for an informative discovery session via phone or in person. Phone (800) 552-WRITE, that's (800) 552-9748 or write to me at susan@susanborkin.com to find out more.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I glanced at the small garden area of my yard the other day, fantasizing about what I will soon be planting. Even if spring has not found its way to your corner of the world, perhaps you have noticed an opening bud or new green leaves popping up somewhere.

I’ve always thought gardening and creativity had a lot in common. Both require planning, preparation, getting your hands dirty, planting seeds, watering, feeding, sunshine, and waiting.  Consider these ideas:

Planning
Before you begin growing your garden, it would be wise to figure out what it is you want to plant. Do you want a vegetable garden? Do you want flowers in your garden? How much sun and water will your plants require? Before you begin a creative project like sewing a new dress you will need to decide what type of dress you want to make. What type of fabric will you need? Will the dress be formal or casual?

Preparation

Once you have decided what you want to plant, you will need to prepare. You might need to visit your local nursery to get packets of seeds or small plants to put into the ground. Before you begin to paint, you will need to have your supplies in order. You will need to visit your local art store. What kind of canvas will you need? Will you be painting with oil, pastels, or water color?

Get Your Hands Dirty

At some point you will need to dig in the ground and get your hands dirty. You will need to remove rocks and weeds that are in your way. At some point you will need to sit down and start writing that novel. You will need to deal with your writing blocks and critical voice.

Plant the Seeds
You will soon need to carefully plant seeds or seedlings in the ground, while not knowing for sure how long it will take before they begin to sprout. You will need to trust that your plants will grow. When you write, you have to begin putting down words, not knowing if they actually make sense. You will need to trust your creative process.

Nurturing
You will need to nurture your plants. You will need time to weed, water, and feed your plants. If you neglect them or do not protect them, they will die.     You will need to nurture your creative process, take care of yourself and protect your work or it too, will die.

Waiting
Perhaps the most difficult part of both planting a garden and doing creative work is waiting for the plants to grow and for creative work to evolve. Love and patience are required.

This spring, if you have an opportunity to plant even a small garden, love the process of both the sowing and reaping. As you create, love the process of creation as well.

Take good care,

 


If you find yourself wanting some support or help in clearing your garden, contact me for an informative discovery session via phone or in person. Phone (800) 552-WRITE, that's (800) 552-9748 or write to me at susan@susanborkin.com to find out more.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

New Year's Resolutions - Revisited

It’s March.  Already, just like that? It may have taken you a few months to settle into the New Year, but now that it’s here, you may be wondering where the time has gone!  You may also be wondering, “Whatever happened to those New Year’s resolutions?” Or you may be denying them, as in “What New Year’s resolutions?”  Or you simply may have avoided New Year’s resolutions all together.

Whatever happened to that list of  “I promise I’ll really get to it this year” stuff that’s looking a bit daunting about now, here are some suggestions to get re-energized.
  • BREAK BIG PROJECTS INTO TINY STEPS.  A friend of mine recently reminded me of the old joke, “How do you eat an elephant?”  The answer, of course, is “One bite at a time.” Go back to your list of goals or resolutions for the year and focus on one project at a time.  Break down the project into as many small bite-sized pieces as possible.  Here’s an example.  Many of my clients have mentioned getting stuck on creative projects like putting photos in albums.  This can feel like an overwhelming amount of work, taking all the pleasure out of it.  Break down the project into cropping pictures or arranging photos one page at a time.  Or take a small stack of pictures and sort or purge.  That’s all you have to do.  Breaking any project into small pieces makes it infinitely more do able and a lot more fun.

     
  • WE ALL BITE OFF MORE THAN WE CAN CHEW.  What looked perfectly reasonable to accomplish two months ago may no longer be realistic.  You know, life enters in---your computer crashes, your car develops a mysterious leak, your child gets the flu.  When you made your goal list at the end of last year or the first few days at the beginning of this year, there was no way you could have anticipated exactly what would be happening every single day.  You can be clear, organized, focused and things still happen to you without your consent.  No need to abandon the list.  Take some time, get quiet and gently look at your list of goals or resolutions. You may just want to re-vamp and update it a bit.

  • KEEP THE GOAL; CHANGE THE DEADLINE.  One of the most important things I ever learned about goal setting was to keep the goal if I really wanted it and believed in it.  I have learned, however, to change the deadline.  If I possibly can, I allow myself to change the due date, moving it slightly ahead instead of dropping the project all together.  Things make take two or three times as long as we had anticipated. Your original deadline may simply have not been realistic.  There are certain deadlines we do need to keep to like registration deadlines or other cut-off dates.  On-going, creative projects may need a little more flexibility.  This is not permission to procrastinate; but you might just be a little kinder. Keep the goal, move the deadline out a bit and keep going.

  • LET GO OF HAVING IT BE PERFECT.  I frequently say to my writing clients, (as well as to myself!)  “Done is better than perfect.”  Finishing a writing project, a draft of a short story or the draft of your novel is more important than having it be perfect.  Being able to attain perfection is a myth if it blocks the creative process. That’s what editors are for, to help with rewriting, untangling and clarity.  For now, just aim to finish what you’re working on and leave the fixing up for later.  Consider this thought from Joseph Chilton Pearce:  “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”

  • START!   The hardest part of any creative project is getting started.  Ever notice the draft feature on your e-mail program?  Use it!   Start your reply the moment you read an e-mail and have any thought at all how you would like to reply.  Use your initial energy and first response thoughts to get started.  Apply this same principle to other projects.  Maybe you’re not ready to write a long journal entry.  But at least sit down, note the date and time and open your journal.  Write for ten minutes.  You can always add more later.

  • GET HELP VIA COACHING, MENTORING OR TRAINING.  Eric Maisel author of Coaching the Artist Within and several other books, says that those of us involved in creative work might have no accountability.  It is too easy to work in isolation and then shove a short story or manuscript into a drawer.  Checking in with a coach, mentor or trainer provides accountability as well as support.  If your creative dream or project is stalled and you can’t seem to get it started, get help!
Ready to do a few revisions on those New Year resolutions?  Review these ideas and get yourself re-energized and re-focused for spring!

Take good care,

 


PS: If you find yourself wanting some support in figuring out how to plan a mid-winter mini retreat, contact me for an informative discovery session via phone or in person. Phone (800) 552-WRITE, that's (800) 552-9748 or write to me at susan@susanborkin.com to find out more.

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