Practice makes perfect.
Again, here is the WordPress theme for the day:
Day Three: Commit to a Writing Practice
Today’s Prompt: Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?
Nailing Brahms’ Hungarian Dance Number 5 on your alto sax. Making perfect pulled pork tacos. Drawing what you see. Or, writing a novel. Each requires that you make practice a habit.
Today, try free writing. To begin, empty your mind onto the page. Don’t censor yourself; don’t think. Just let go. Let the emotions or memories connected to your three songs carry you.
Today’s twist: You’ll commit to a writing practice. The frequency and the amount of time you choose to spend today — and moving forward — are up to you, but we recommend a minimum of fifteen uninterrupted minutes per day.
The basic unit of writing practice is the timed exercise. – Natalie Goldberg
Author Natalie Goldberg says to “burn through to first thoughts, to that place where energy is unobstructed by social politeness or the internal censor.” Here are some of her rules of free writing practice from Writing Down the Bones, which we recommend you keep in mind:
- Keep your hand moving. (Don’t pause to reread the line you’ve just written. That’s stalling and trying to get control of what you’re saying.)
- Don’t cross out. (That is editing as you write. Even if you write something you didn’t mean to write, leave it.)
- Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar. (Don’t even care about staying within the margins and lines on the page.)
- Lose control.
- Don’t think. Don’t get logical.
- Go for the jugular. (If something comes up in your writing that is scary or naked, dive right into it. It probably has lots of energy.)
Jorge Luis Borges said: “Writing is nothing more than a guided dream.” So, what are you waiting for? Get writing. Fifteen minutes. Go. And then, do it again tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after.
Now having written a daily post for well over five years, I’m comfortable with the concept of committing to a writing practice.
Thus I’m going to republish something that gets to the heart of more worldly matters – keeping a smile on your face in these ‘interesting’ times. It comes from a blog that I recently started following: One Regular Guy Writing about Food, Exercise and Living Longer.
Regular readers know that I have embraced the theory of positive psychology. I have written a number of posts on the benefits of a positive point of view. You can find an index of them at the end of this post.
Meanwhile, I was thrilled to see Elizabeth Bernstein’s piece in the Personal Journal of Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal entitled “It’s Healthy to Put a Good Spin on Your Life.“
In a study of a large number of adults in their mid to late 50’s researchers found that “when people displayed higher levels of agency, communion and redemption and lower levels of contamination, their mental health improved. They consider good mental health to be low levels of depression and high levels of life satisfaction and psychological and social well-being.”
They explained the four keys to good mental health as follows:
• Agency—Did the subjects feel able to influence and respond to events in life, or did they feel battered around by the whims of external forces?
• Communion—Are the people connected to others or disconnected?
• Redemption—Did the subjects take a negative experience and find some positive outcome?
• Contamination—Did they tell narratives of good things turning bad?
I would like to point you to a post I wrote in May of 2011 called Super Tools for Handling Stress.
In it I quoted Maggie Crowley, Psy.D., a Health Psychologist at the center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness at Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group.
Dr. Crowley listed the following as maladaptive coping strategies:
*Demand our circumstances be different
*Devalue ourselves and others
*Demean/blame ourselves and others
*When the above fail to work, do we choose another strategy?
*Or, do we double our ill-conceived efforts and feed our downward spiral.
She said that we needed something to shift our mental gears out of the stressful/fearful response that triggers that damaging cascade of negative emotion. She suggested the following activities that set off the parasympathetic approach:
*Making choices that are positive
*Using constructive language
*Employing our strengths and personal power.
I think that there is a great similarity between the four keys to good mental health mentioned in the Journal and the points made by Dr. Crowley in dealing with stressors.
Regarding positive psychology, I have found it answered a lot of questions for me. If you are interested you can explore it in the following posts:
What is Positive Psychology?
How to Harness Positive Psychology for You – Harvard
Breaking down 8 Barriers to Positive Thinking – Infographic
11 Ways to Become a Better, More Positive You
How to Become a Positive Thinker
7 Exercises That Train Your Brain to Stay Positive
Positive, Happy People Suffer Less Pain
This is such incredibly powerful and useful advice with lots of further reading to boot!
For we are bombarded with negative news from all quarters and having a healthy relationship with oneself and, thence, with the world around us is, in the end, what life is all about.