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The pause that cleanses

October 15, 2012

This morning at church, we had a guest deliver the message (or sermon or homily or however that translates for you). He started by asking everyone to take a moment of prayer. That’s not unusual, but the way he said it was different than normal. It made me immediately think of something that’s been productive to me that I often forget.

When I do any writing exercises facilitated by the lovely and talented Jamie Morris, she always started by asking everyone to close their eyes and breathe–to separate themselves from the thoughts and concerns they had before. We’re to lay aside the life that we were living when we started the writing, even if only for a few hours, to pay attention to our craft.

Jamie Morris, breathing coach

Jamie asks that we notice our breathing, to breathe deep and even and notice things about our bodies. (For me, it would be noticing that I’m actually within the same continent as being considered ripped now…just sayin’.) The exercise cleanses the creative palette and  allows us to move forward with the work at hand.

This is me. Really. I’m totally completely not lying. Mostly.

I write stuff that’s on the same street as high-quality, publishable prose when I go through this process and work with Jamie.

And, idiot that I am, I have never once started my writing off with this kind of separation at home (or wherever I happen to be writing). As a result, as I write, I tend to be distracted by the latest Mets score (they’re probably losing), what’s happening on Facebook (it’s probably unimportant–my 123,879th invitation to play Farmville), or what the weather’s going to be (it’s Florida–blizzards are unlikely).

I’ll eventually hit a phase where become productive and often decent material emerges from my keyboard. But sometimes, there are so many self-imposed distractions that it takes a good hour or two to get there.

When you work out to reach the same continent as ripped, you have to start out by warming up. Then you stretch. If you start cold, your workout isn’t as effective and you can get hurt. The vast majority of people old enough to be concerned about injury know the value of warming up and do so before exercising.

And yet for writing, many of us don’t warm up or stretch. I’ve never aggravated my Achilles tendon by not warming up before writing. But I have meandered through an unfruitful exercise because my mind never fully clears.

Fortunately, we aren’t required to sit this way. Many of us would never get up.

And since my wife–and Jamie–wouldn’t be okay with my keeping her in the closet for when I need to be a productive writer, maybe I should consider doing it myself.

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