This past weekend I attended Laurie Calkhoven‘s workshop on Using Meditation for Writers and Illustrators, sponsored by NJ-SCBWI. I’d wanted to attend her session at last summer’s conference, but had decided I needed another session more, so I was glad of a chance to find out what I’d missed. What a fabulous day! We were instructed to bring our yoga mats & blankets as well as our notebooks & sketchbooks – and yes, chairs were available, though most of us spent our time on the floor. (I really need to get back to a regular yoga practice.)
Laurie guided us through eight meditations, each with free writing time to follow. Ranging from brainstorming to character development to scene creation to revision, each meditation focused on a different aspect of a story. I was surprised by the amount of writing that literally spilled from my pen after each period of meditation; while some were more productive than others, all were valuable. By the end of the day, I was spent – eight meditations is a lot for one day! Seems like breathing deeply and focusing only on your breath would be easy, but that mental work is hard work – Laurie told us that she usually does only one or two meditations each day, depending on the needs of her project and where she is in her process. I knew how to meditate, although I don’t practice regularly. After this great workshop, I’ll be practicing a LOT more. While little about the workshop was new to me, it was the demonstration of applying meditation that was so valuable. I now see why so many writers (and illustrators) use it as a tool.
Perhaps the most surprising meditation was on revision. Laurie instructed us to meditate on black and white – that was all. NO further instruction, no explanation of what aspects of the colors, no guided imagery. I think of revision as a purely analytical process, but I was surprised what freeing my mind allowed me to create when I turned to the free writing. I was able to quickly and easily outline what needed doing for my current revision! No struggles, no pain. Laurie explained afterwards that the purpose was really to instill the ability to trust your instincts, to be analytical without being judgmental. She also said that she usually meditates and then goes immediately to the pages needing revision, which reassured several folks who found themselves at a loss after the meditation.
At the end of the day, I took my train back to the city, relaxed and refreshed – and happy that I’d gotten a head start on the week’s work. Here’s hoping that you get a chance to experience the benefits of one of Laurie’s workshops!