Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

Settling down #amwriting #amrevising

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writing in a journal on the lawn
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

A lot of writers have been posting about how the pandemic and the quarantine have disrupted their writing. Despite spending so much time at home, they are having a tough time focusing. Heck, a lot of people have trouble sleeping. COVID dreams, anyone?

Now with the turmoil of the past couple weeks added on top of all that, settling down to write seems to be a losing battle. All of the things going on right now foster anxiety, fear, anger, and frustration. Then there’s the whole being cooped up 24-7 with people you love but honestly need a break from sometimes–erm, on a regular basis. πŸ˜€

All these things disrupt the flow of creativity, at least for me. Considering it’s been what, three months since the pandemic kicked off the quarantine, there’s been time to try different things to settle that creative energy enough to use.

My Writing Sisters chat every week, and this week we shared some of the things we’re doing to help us attain the calm we need to write. Maybe you’ve figured out what works for you by now. If not, here are some of the things we are doing:

  • Turn off the news: Um, yeah. That’s what’s disrupting our energy to begin with. Hopefully you don’t live with someone who is a news junkie. Check in occasionally to stay informed (provided, of course, your source is non-biased and well-balanced, and no, I won’t go there), but anything more than an hour or so is probably too much.
  • Get outside: There is something grounding about being in Nature. Sure, we need to be mindful of where we go and physical distancing, but a walk in the woods or a park has a calming effect. Green trees, bird song, whispering leaves, maybe a laughing brook, flowers. Pay attention to it all. It’s like mindful breathing: it gives you something to focus on instead of the mental clutter encouraged by all the news lately. The weather this time of year is great (if you discount temps above 90 F and humidity above 80%). The southern hemisphere is heading into winter, but hopefully your weather isn’t like MN’s winter πŸ™‚
  • Exercise: Walks or runs help work off anxious energy. Yoga and other activities like tai chi are both a physical workout and a meditation. Anything to bleed off that unsettled energy helps.
  • Write longhand: Writing longhand is a great way to pull a writing brain out of the mire. Even if it’s just journaling or stream-of-consciousness writing, it lures creative energy out, giving it a ball or a piece of chalk and a bare sidewalk to play with. Double bonus: Do writing-focused activities, like deep-dive character bios or setting histories in longhand. Try it. It works πŸ™‚
  • Listen to music: Not head-banging, death-metal stuff (unless that’s your thing), but instrumental music. Or music with words, but the key there is to listen and not pay attention to the words. I listen to what we used to call “New Age” (maybe we still do call it New Age) and a lot of instrumental covers of popular music (The Piano Guys or David Garrett, for instance). And there’s always nature tracks, like waterfalls, rain, or bubbling brooks. Thunderstorms and ocean waves are my go-tos.
  • Get creative in other ways: Something that isn’t writing but is still creative helps to exercise that creative energy without weaving it into the structure writing can require. I know writers who are doing more quilting these days. I’ve been doing some crocheting (easy stuff like scarves and afghans). Playing music is another way to work the creative energy and settle your mind. I sat down at the piano again after ten years of not playing. It felt good.
  • Meditate: There are a lot of apps that help you learn to meditate, one of which offers a free subscription to health care and other front line workers (Headspace, I think), and another that offers a free membership for a year because of COVID-19 (Balance. Don’t know if they are still offering the free year). One of my writing sisters discovered a series of meditations for writers here. She ‘s been having a lot of success with them as she works on her WIP.
  • Get out in the garden: You knew this would be on my list, right? This ties back in with getting outside. Of course, there are annoying things like mosquitoes and weeds to contend with. Maybe it’s that physical connection to the earth that helps to ground us, because that’s really what it’s like. Nature can help us a lot if we pay attention.
  • Read: I’ve been reading a little more lately, and listening to audiobooks when I run. Full disclosure: Jim Butcher’s next Dresden book (after a six-year absence) is coming out soon, so I indulged in reading some of Harry’s earlier adventures. My favorite wizard! Reading to escape is different than reading to learn, but that’s the point, to escape. Reading to learn is also important to help us understand different perspectives and move forward in our craft and in our society.

Now that things are opening up, people who have been chomping at the bit because they’ve been cooped up are getting some respite, but I think a lot of writers have been pretty okay with the whole isolation thing. Yet even if you are an introvert, there is something to be said about being with other people, especially if you want to help in the midst of the chaos of the world.

Volunteering (taking proper safety precautions, of course) is a way to be around people and do something good for others and know you’ve been able to make a difference. This in turn helps you feel better and more settled, even if it’s nothing more than helping your elderly or sickly next door neighbor get their groceries for the week, or taking them to a doctor’s appointment.

My first round of revisions is coming along. I have one assignment left for my class, but I noticed a writer’s meditation that may help me with that. It’s on my to-do for today. It seems my other stories are starting to stir more, so once round one is finished for Book 2, I’ll give another story some attention for a bit while I let Book 2 rest.

Hope you all are doing well, staying healthy, and writing!

PS: I didn’t make it to the final round for the RONE award, but THANK YOU to everyone who voted!

Author: Julie Holmes, author

A fiction writer since elementary school (many years ago), and NaNoWriMo annual participant for over a decade, I have been published in small press magazines such as "Fighting Chance" and "The Galactic Citizen". I write adult mystery with a touch of romance, mystery with extrasensory elements, contemporary fantasy, and epic fantasy, and I'm represented by the fabulous Cynthia Zigmund of Second City Publishing Services. My debut novel, "Murder in Plane Sight", has been released by Camel Press (an imprint of Coffeetown Press/Epicenter Press). In real life, I am a technical writer and empty-nester with a wonderful hubby, one cat (what writer doesn't have cats??), two dogs, six chickens, and more chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits than any garden should have to deal with. My garden, our hobby farm, and Nature's annual seasons are some of my muses.

36 thoughts on “Settling down #amwriting #amrevising

  1. These are helpful ideas, Julie. As you say, the Covid-19 outbreak, plus the dismay that so many of us have been feeling about the murder of George Floyd, have left a lot of us emotionally and mentally exhausted. It’s wise to take care of ourselves, find ways to center ourselves, and keep going. That’s how we’ll have the energy to write, to make a difference, to be wise as the nation re-opens, etc.. I find that nature is very helpful in doing that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful, affirming, and uplifting post, Julie! And good advice, as well. You already know I’m reading every chance I get, hoping to get from Book 1 to Book 15 of The Dresden Files before #16 finally reaches us. It’s beginning to get too hot for me outside, but I’m still trying to reclaim our garden after Irma smashed it a couple of years ago, so I do get outside a bit for that. And as soon as my doctor says it’s safe for me to go out, I’m planning to take a cruise on the St. Johns River Eco Tours boat. I’ve missed being out on that river, amid birds, manatees, alligators and all the other wildlife. Good for the soul! I would also add that it never hurts to take a moment to be grateful for the things we still have, especially if good (or at least fairly good) health is among those.

    All your suggestions are super ones, and I’m sharing this on The Write Stuff today. Thanks for such an inspiring post, and my best wishes for your continued safety and a gradual return to a more normal life one of these days. πŸ™‚ ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, thank you, Marcia! Here’s hoping you can get out and take a cruise soon. Water and trees, those are my particular favorites! And you have such rich wildlife areas where you are. And yes, taking time to be grateful–that’s one I missed.

      Thank you so much for sharing! I hope others find these suggestions helpful. Have a wonderful weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:
    How are your spirits holding up throughout all the turmoil going on around the world? If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, I recommend a visit to the Facets of a Muse blog. Julie Holmes has a terrific post today, full of positive ideas for ways to cope with the stress of it all, and find a calm center that might even improve your creativity along with your overall well-being. I know you’ll enjoy her post as much as I did, and hope you’ll consider sharing it far and wide so others can, too. Thanks, and thanks to Julie for such helpful and uplifting ideas! πŸ™‚ ❀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful, achievable useful advice. I’m lucky in that I live in a small rural village and have a large garden. Nature has always been a calming influence on me. Bad arthritis has put an end to my guitar playing, but I dug out some old music books and also sat down at the piano last night and really enjoyed the experience.
    I came here via Marcia’s blog. Her wit and wisdom help to keep me entertained and grounded and I’ve been lured into the Dresden Files. I finished Summer Knight two days ago and have Grave Peril at the ready. The series began well but definitely improves as it goes along and I understand the pull of Harry Dresden now. What’s more, I intend to read when the fancy takes me instead of worrying about all the other things I could be doing…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Quick amendment – already read Grave Peril. On to Death Masks. Senior moment.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Woohooo, Trish! So glad you enjoyed this wonderful post as much as I did. Julie has a lovely blog, and it’s always fun to stop by here, in case you haven’t visited before. Just wait until she starts talking about her Muse. Wowzer! πŸ˜€ And I’m super glad you are finally involved in Harry Dresden’s amazing world. I’m telling you, the books get better and better! Reading when you darn well feel like it is an excellent approach, btw. I’m trying to do more of that, though I’m usually so busy during the day, that I read only during lunch, and then for 2 or 3 hours in bed each night. BUT. I’m going to try to add a few spontaneous Book Moments here and there, just like YOU, and if I do, I am NOT going to feel guilty, either, by golly! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Trish! I live in a rural area as well, and the garden, even weeding, is a sort of therapy. Not to mention the fresh veggie treats πŸ˜€ So glad you were able to sit down at the piano. I didn’t expect it to feel as settling as it did, considering I’m waaay rusty.

      Yay, another Dresden fan! I read Skin Game to remind me what the last book was, and Blood Rites, because that was when Harry found Mouse (or vice versa πŸ˜€ ) I like how you think–read when the fancy takes me instead of worrying about all the other things I could be doing … Yep, I really like that one!

      Thanks for stopping by! Have a wonderful weekend!

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’ve only recently faced up to the misery I was causing myself by trying to do so many things that I felt I ought to be doing instead of focusing on the things that really matter to me. I’ve met some amazing people (Marcia, take a bow!) and really enjoy my exchanges with them but I’ve been juggling so many other self-imposed commitments that I’ve only been able to skate around on the surface of things. The relief at getting some balance back in my life is immense.
        And I find weeding is an excellent way of dealing with a plot hole – never fails!
        Delighted to have found you, Julie! Have a great weekend.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Those are good suggestions. For me, I’ve been happy to escape into my writing. I can’t solve America’s problems but at least I can fix a sentence.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. These are good suggestions, Julie. Right from the beginning of all of this, I limited my exposure to the news. Listening to bad news all day is very depressing. I have also done a lot of fondant art, baking and writing as well as my work which I a doing from home.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good plan, Roberta–less news, less stuff to worry about (because we already have enough of that stuff, we don’t need to reinforce it πŸ˜€ ) Your fondant art looks like a great way to exercise creativity, and a lot of fun!

      Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I so want to rub my face right in that belly!
    Thanks for the nice ideas. Sorry about your live-in news junkie. Gardens (and chickens and neighborhood cats that occasionally sneak inside purely by accident, I swear!) are all great.
    Sorry about the RONE award. It was cool to have you be in the running, though.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It was cool to be in the running for the RONE. I’m telling you, Betsy, the universe wants you to have your very own cuddle-cat πŸ˜€ Or maybe the universe wants the neighborhood cats to have a hangout πŸ˜€

      Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

      • My mom has been encouraging me to essentially catnap one so that I’ll have a cat here for her next visit. I told her, the cat already does think she lives here. Now we’ve gotten TWO dead gophers! πŸ™‚ (Keep ’em coming, kitty!)

        Liked by 1 person

  8. All very helpful suggestions, Julie. Nature is always calling out to me and I love to take my journel and reflecting. What little writing that’s coming to me has been different, so I embrace it. I agree with turning off the news, and I do but I still check in. Then I need to regroup. Have a great week, Julie xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Being surrounded by nature while writing is the best! I do check in with the news (not hard with a softcore news junkie in the house), but I try not to linger too long, and pull out my writing or a book to read instead. Or walk. Lots of walks during the news.

      Have a great weekend, Denise!

      Like

  9. “Yet even if you are an introvert, there is something to be said about being with other people, especially if you want to help in the midst of the chaos of the world.” Well said, Julie. I’m a consummate introvert and still find this so hard. Great tips for dealing with stress, too. Unfortunately, the protests are probably going to lead to another surge in the pandemic. I’m so glad that people are rising up and the country is changing, but the timing is unfortunate. If only we’d addressed racism hundreds of years ago.
    Be well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed. We’ve come a long way, but we have a lot further to go. The mix of crew members was one of the ground-breaking things about Star Trek (not a Trekkie, but I’ve seen my share πŸ˜€ ) Here’s hoping we make some serious progress, though with the current leadership not only here but in other parts of the world, we may not get as far as we want. Still, moving forward.

      Stay healthy and have a great weekend, Diana!

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s been an interesting shift from racial divides to “the people” versus “the government.” Things will improve some as real reforms take place. Some of the mayors and governors are stepping to the plate now and it’s great to see. It will get better too when Trump is history.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Great tips. I’ve been doing some of those things… Need to try the others too. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Some very good ideas, Julie. I worked at home for five weeks, but I’m in healthcare (support staff, not front line), so I’ve been back at the office since late April. Working from home isn’t what its cracked up to be! Unless, of course, I could write full time. Our state is reopening and last night we went out to a restaurant for only the second time since March.

    Hope you’re doing well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been working at home since mid-March. As a tech writer, I can pretty much work from home all the time, but I do miss interacting with co-workers (and when my veggies are ready, I’m going to miss bringing the excess to work to share πŸ˜€ ). I don’t have a separate office, just a spot in an out-of-the-main-traffic-flow place. I’m okay with it, except for the background noise of the TV news (hubs is a soft-core news junkie. Ugh.)

      Stay safe, Joan! Have a wonderful week!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I love your ideas, Julie! The only three I’m not currently practicing are getting out in the garden (I don’t have one), meditating (I plan to add that) and writing longhand (something else I plan to add). These are such upsetting times and anything we can do to add balance is a huge plus.
    I’m sorry you didn’t make it to the next round of Rone, but even being nominated is a feather in your cap!
    Love the Zoey pic, too πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • You don’t have a garden, but you do have a pool — I would consider floating blissfully on an air raft an acceptable substitute πŸ˜€ And don’t forget rubbing a cat’s belly. Or scratching her ears.

      Zoey says ‘Hi’ to Raven!

      Have a great week, Mae!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you for the suggestions and ideas, Julie. I don’t turn off the TV because Hubby watches TV most of the day when he is done taking care of the basics. I don’t watch the news. I have CNN and LA Times coming to my inbox and can glance the headlines. I spend time in my garden especially when it’s still cooler some of the days and I tried to plant new plants or seeds. I try to go walking as often as I could and have it on my to-do list. And, in fact, I have been writing longhand and enjoyed it. What else, yes, I listen to music before bedtime and try to read. It’s still not the same as the old normal but I try to make the best out of the circumstances.

    I like the idea of meditating and signed up for a mindfulness workshop, but I’m not doing too well with it. I wanted to pick up my drawing again and haven’t gotten anywhere yet. So I have quite a few things could be done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My hubs has the TV on all. the. time. For him, a lot of it is background noise. I prefer quiet, so sometimes I can convince him to mute the TV and he can listen to it with his wireless headphones. And he is a soft-core news junkie, though the constant focus on a single news story lately (first the virus, now the protests) as though nothing else is going on in the world, has finally got him thinking about turning the news off.

      As much as I love the garden, by mid-july when the weeds start growing in earnest and I can’t keep up with the weeding, I’m usually tempted to write instead. I signed up for a free year of a meditation app, but I’m not doing very well with that, either. I think as long as we are able to do something that helps us settle our minds, we’re doing pretty well πŸ˜€

      Have a wonderful week, Miriam! Stay well!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m glad your hubby watched the news with wireless headphone. My hubby does the same. With all the isolation, I don’t want to stay in my office to feel extra isolated, so I do my work in the dining room. It’s good that I can’t see the TV screen from where I sit and I can see the front yard and the garden with all the green and flowers.

        I have 8 days of mindfulness videos and I better watch at least the first one.

        Please stay safe, Julie! πŸ™‚

        Like

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