How to calm your mind for writing.

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The logical, rational, critical part of my mind is an extroverted know-it-all. I call her Frieda. Frieda is smart about some things, but she tends to hold forth. She can be a loud, bossy, close-talker. She talks over the softer voice that belongs to the curious, quiet, more creative part of my mind. This part is so shy, I forgot to give her a name for many years. I call her Violet.

Frieda wants to have total power. She wants to be in charge of everything, including my first draft. But if she does all the writing, my story is predictable, unsubtle, full of clichés. She morphs into a critic, and points out everything bad about her first draft as she writes it. Then, she blames me for what doesn’t work. 

Violet is non-verbal, curious, and imaginative. When I give Violet the power to write something, it glimmers with interesting connections, metaphors, and emotions. My handwriting loosens, I write over the margins, and there are spelling and grammar errors on the page. That’s because Violet is more concerned with how something feels than how it is spelled.

This writing doesn’t make sense to Frieda right away. So Frieda loudly and concisely lets me know why it’s really bad writing.

When writers talk about writing being hard work, one of the things they’re talking about is how to control and direct their Friedas, and give more space to their Violets. They’re talking about the mindset that’s required to integrate these two skilled characters, so they work together, and not in opposition.

To balance your mind for writing, it can be helpful to name the characters in your mind. This puts a bit of space between you and the thoughts in your head, so you can control and modulate their volume and power. 

Who is your know-it-all? Who’s the one in your head who always wants to dominate the conversation? They could show up as an explainer, a critic, or the grammar police. Give them a name.

Now, who’s your curious observer? Who’s the one in your head who needs more time to watch the light play on the walls, to taste the flavours and hear the sounds? They probably show up non-verbally, so you may have to find some inner stillness just to understand what they want to show you about colour, space, emotion and character.  Give them a name.

Once you’ve named your two characters, ask yourself: who is the one who’s doing the naming?

Now, give that consciousness a name. 

This is the one who moderates, integrates, calms, and directs the other parts.

What might be different about your writing life, if you connected to that part of your mind more often?


Photo credit (top): ONUR KURT on Unsplash.

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I loved this post so much that, after lurking about for quite a while, I just have to comment! I've had a Frieda and a Violet for years, ever since I took a course with Holly Lisle, who encouraged us to visualise and name our muse. So I found the Firedrake, a non-verbal, insatiably curious, unpredictable and often capricious will-o'the-wisp, forever jumping this way and that, playful and easily distracted. In time I also recognised the Captain, a clockwork hussar - precise, logical,  disciplined, and a bit of a control freak. We've lived and worked together happily enough all this time - and it never occurred to me before that there might be another flatmate in my attic... The one who does the naming? I thought I did the naming - but now I'm non so sure. You've set me on a quest now., and I'm curious, and excited.  Who is hiding up there, whispering from the shadows? 

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Sarah Selecky

Hello Clara! I loved hearing about the Firedrake and the Captain - what wonderful names for these voices. Happy to hear that you have a new wondering question, too... Thank you for sharing. :) 

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