Meditation is a proven practice that can help writers and creative professionals find better ideas for their work too.
After I wake up early, I typically meditate each morning for 10 or twenty minutes before sitting down to write. This practice can help you find better ideas for your fiction and non-fiction too.
Just ask meditation coach Marianne McGuire.
In this podcast episode, she explains:
- The link between focusing on your breath and the blank page
- How new writers can conquer feeling overwhelmed
- A type of meditation practice that’s perfect for writers
And lots more.
If you’d like to learn more, check this article I wrote for Forbes based on my interview with Marianne McGuire.
I also wrote extensively about the link between mediation and creativity in The Power of Creativity.
Speaker 1: Welcome to the Become A Writer Today podcast with Bryan Collins. Here you will find practical advice and interviews for all kinds of writers.
Bryan Collins: Meditation. Have you tried it to overcome feelings like writer’s block or feeling like you don’t have any ideas for your writing?
Bryan Collins: Hi there. My name is Bryan Collins. Welcome to the Become A Writer Today podcast. Meditation is a powerful technique that I’ve used for the last few years with apps like Headspace and Calm, and so on. It’s also a technique that everyone from David Lynch to the writer Natalie Goldberg talk about and explain how it’s helped them with their craft and in their art.
Bryan Collins: I spoke to the Irish artist and meditation coach, Marianne McGuire. I asked her how she got into meditation in the first place and how this practice can help new writers.
MarianneMcGuire: My whole background is actually in art. I managed a fine art gallery. I worked in fine art auctioneering. I studied history of art, and I’ve been a painter for all of my adult life. But I always had this calling, and I couldn’t deny it. It was just always there in the background based on a spiritual experience I had as a child. I had this experience of being awareness, and I knew it was this extremely firm foundation I had in my life, that I didn’t get from reading books or studying, but because I was conditioned, I kind of put it to the side. I put it to the side because I thought we were supposed to live life a certain way.
MarianneMcGuire: Eventually, I followed my calling. I started Let Go And Know; How to let go of struggle and know who you really are, because I really believed it an absolutely fundamental way to live your life. Going within, meditating, connecting to the greater part of yourself, is what allows you to be creative. It’s what allows you to live a juicy life. I absolutely love helping people. I love receiving their feedback. It’s so gratifying, and I really feel that I’m living my life’s purpose. That’s what I love to help people do; live their life’s purpose.
Bryan Collins: Marianne, a lot of writers feel like their purpose is to tell a story that’s inside of them, but I was talking to one new writer recently who said she was struggling to get these ideas inside of her, to get them onto the page and let them flow. Do you think meditation is something that can help a writer like that?
MarianneMcGuire: Absolutely. Absolutely. Because that all comes from judgment and kind of berating ourselves. Are we going to be good enough? Is this going to be accepted? When you let all of that go, when you give yourself permission to let all of that go, you open up a space, and you can meet that part of yourself. You can receive the guidance. This is very real. I don’t want it to sound esoteric. This is very, very real and it has very real ramifications in your life. So there’s a huge link between meditation and creativity. I mean, going within is the key to living a creative life.
MarianneMcGuire: I’m not just referring now to being an artist or a writer … I am as well … but also to receiving new ideas for your business, for example. Because when your mind isn’t focused, and your attention is scattered, you just won’t be able to connect, as I say, with the source of creativity. The ideas and inspiration are always present, that’s what we need to remember, it’s not like, “I have to go and create something myself.”
MarianneMcGuire: They’re always there, but you have to be open and willing to receive them, to hear the whisperings of awareness, then you have to act upon them. I mean, connecting to the source of creativity, to the field of awareness, is one of the most powerful actions you can take because this is where you receive the information and the guidance that you need for your next creative project, for the next best step in your life. [crosstalk 00:03:51].
Bryan Collins: Lots of creative professionals do talk about the benefits of meditation . I suppose, from the kind of business, the non-fiction background, there would be Tim Ferriss. Then, from the film and media industry, there would be the film writer and director David Lynch. I’m just wondering, is there a particular type of meditation that you would advocate for somebody who is interested in becoming more creative?
MarianneMcGuire: A particular type … Well, I suppose I have a way of looking at this. My big thing is … If there was a secret to developing a practice for a creative person or for an entrepreneur, really what I would say to you is, “Don’t complicate it.” Because, what will happen is, you’ll be put off it, especially if you’re a beginner. You just won’t do it. You’ll walk away. Absolutely don’t complicate it.
MarianneMcGuire: Don’t bother with the complicated breathing techniques and the sitting in the lotus position. Don’t worry about any of that. The secret is to commit to it, and don’t give up after doing it once or twice because it has a cumulative effect. You go deeper, more easily, when you practice it regularly, and preferably at the same time every day. Really, just go within, focus on your breathing, and become aware of your senses. So kind of get out of your head. Get out of your head. You know, the monkey mind?
Bryan Collins: Yeah.
MarianneMcGuire: Focus. Maybe start at your head, moving down your body. Down, down, down, and reach your toes. Focus on your senses. Just very, very simple. “What can I hear, right now? What am I smelling?” What happens there, it’s so simple, you’re becoming present. You become present. You’re actually kind of in your body on planet Earth, as opposed to off away in the past, regretting the past, worrying about the future. No, present. Present moment. That’s where the moment is. That’s where the magic is.
Bryan Collins: How long would somebody do this before they sit down to write?
MarianneMcGuire: You know, I’m not really into taking a lot of time about it. Obviously, if you can set aside this time, preferably the same time each day, 20 minutes would be amazing. But just say you’re about to sit down and write, 15 minutes before you write, 15 minutes to open up, let go of the monkey mind and open that space, and allow the inspiration to flow.
MarianneMcGuire: I’ll give you an example, Bryan. I didn’t even mean to do this, I just had this idea … Again, with inspiration, always follows, always follow your intuitive nudges. I thought, “Poetry. I’ve put that off for ages because I’m an artist mainly but I adore writing, but poetry.”
MarianneMcGuire: I sat down every single morning … This is it, it’s kind of key, even if you have to get up earlier, the same time every day … I took out my notebook, I don’t use a computer, notebook and pen, and within 28 days I had a book of poetry written. I set aside, I went within for five minutes in the morning, I wrote for about 20 minutes. I mean, seriously, it was not … It was no great commitment, but the point is, I set aside the time to do it, I committed to do it, and it was, although I say so myself, it was kind of lovely, delicious, you know? I adore writing. I was delighted with it.
MarianneMcGuire: Set aside, just even if it’s five minutes, do it. Give yourself permission to do it because if you start making it complicated [inaudible 00:07:00] sit in a lotus position, you’ll never do it. You’ll never do it.
Bryan Collins: Yeah, I know. No, I agree, Marianne. In the past, I’ve experimented with using apps like Headspace and Calm, and so on. But actually, what you were saying there about writing in the morning, before you sit down to write, or it makes using meditating, it reminds me of a book by Natalie Goldberg called Writing Down The Bones. She was a great believer in meditation and how it helps writers become more creative. She actually talks about as well, how free writing, that is just sitting in front of the page and writing whatever’s on your mind, is a form of practice or a form of meditation too.
MarianneMcGuire: That’s huge too. It’s like the artist’s way, “Get rid of the junk in the morning.” That’s one way of doing it. Just take out a pen and paper, write down what’s on your mind. If something’s annoying you, write it down. Look, burn it, throw it away, you’re not going to be using this. But then, you can, with no judgment or censorship, keep it going, see what happens, see what happens, even if you’re writing, “I don’t know what to write. What am I doing?” Just keep it going. Then, all of a sudden, you can uncover … The magic starts to happen. You go, “Oh my God, that’s gorgeous. Let’s follow that trail.”
MarianneMcGuire: You tap into this field, and everything is there already. That’s the glory of this. All these innovative ideas for whatever creative venture you have, or if you’re an entrepreneur or an executive, whatever your business idea is, they’re all there already. You don’t necessarily have to create them because that puts too much pressure. Do you know what I mean? It’s putting a lot of pressure on yourself thinking, “I have to come up with something.” It’s all there already, this part of you. You’re tapping into the field.
MarianneMcGuire: Max Plank, who’s the father of quantum physics, called it the divine matrix. So, we don’t have to be esoteric; we can get right down to quantum physics. Whatever your belief is, it’s there. It’s right here, I should say, it’s not there [inaudible 00:08:44], but it’s here within us. I just think that’s so comforting; to know that all the juicy ideas you need for your writing, or whatever your endeavors are, are here waiting for you to allow.
Bryan Collins: One of the things that new writers struggle with is feelings of overwhelm. For example, you might be working on your book in the morning, and you have a busy day job during the day, and you’re getting a lot of requests on you from perhaps the people you work with or your manager. Then, you come home, and you’re feeling a bit burnt out and stressed. I’m just wondering, how do you think meditation can help you avoid those feelings of overwhelm or even get through them?
MarianneMcGuire: I think what happens is, you become focused. You become focused, and that’s what’s hugely important. That’s why it’s so good with productivity. What meditation is, it’s a state of awareness that enables you to ground yourself in the security of the present moment. It’s a really effective way to get distance from your thoughts and receive new, innovative ideas and inspirations for your business [inaudible 00:09:48].
MarianneMcGuire: oveI mean, you’re going to become more productive, you’re going to worry less because overthinking, stress, it’s an epidemic in modern society. A focused mind is a productive mind. You don’t want to spend your life spinning your wheels. When you place your attention within and that presence that occupies your body, it’ll remind you of the truth about the present moment, and your life can become uncluttered, so you become much more productive. Unproductive thoughts fall away because you become focused and naturally productive because worry … Let’s talk about possibly the most unproductive state there is … It puts you in a powerful state where worry really doesn’t feature anymore. You either deal with the problem, or you accept it, but you stop worrying about it.
MarianneMcGuire: This alone is priceless because you begin to own your life.
Bryan Collins: Have you worked with any clients or executives perhaps, who have struggled with those feelings of overwhelm and who have used mediation to become more productive?
MarianneMcGuire: Very much so. Many, many. I had one, I love her so much, I had one very interesting client, and I helped … She was a lawyer, and she was experiencing burnout. You see, when you meditate, you can discover your life’s purpose, and when you have a sense of purpose everything changes in your work and life because you become more focused, so I worked with her. She had reached the stage where she wanted to give up. Her career had become very dry, and she was depressed about it, and she knew, she knew … She was a lawyer, okay, but she knew in her heart and soul something was missing. I shared a simple meditation practice with her and guided her to examine what her core desire was.
MarianneMcGuire: We did that by, I gave her a technique I have, it’s called light writing; journaling after a meditation. You bring the question with you before a meditation, and then, when you come out of it, the [inaudible 00:11:34] of meditation, you write about it, and you receive all these amazing, juicy, insights about it. I also guided her. What did she want to experience? How does she want to serve clients? She had an a-ha moment when she did this, where she realized that she had cut off her compassion when dealing with clients, this was what was missing because she was acting a way she thought she should act.
MarianneMcGuire: This was creating a block in her business, and running a successful and enjoyable business. So she started to be much more present with her clients, she allowed herself to connect with them on a human level. She listened to them deeply, she opened up to her own intuitive guidance about them and guided them about the best way forward. She did meditation for this. She said, “The results were amazing.” They absolutely delighted her. Her business doubled, she received very gratifying feedback from her clients who said: they’d never experienced a service like it. She developed a niche for her business by allowing herself to acknowledge and focus on her purpose.
Bryan Collins: She did meditate daily or every other day?
MarianneMcGuire: Yes. She mediated daily, and I taught her this technique of light writing, Because she was feeling so foggy, she brought the question in with her. She went within. She went within, into the stillness, and then received the answers she needed. That’s where the “A-ha,” moments come from, but the glory of it is, my God, she acted on it. She acted on it. She didn’t just go, “Oh, isn’t that fascinating.”
MarianneMcGuire: You have to be grounded with all of this. You can’t just be up in the air. You have to question when you get intuitive insights you act on them; you honor them. That’s what she did, and her business doubled. And she’s happy. Most importantly, she’s happy.
Bryan Collins: Definitely. One other thing that struck me from listening to your story about the lawyer, Marianne, is the meditation technique she was using didn’t strike me as a digital one, in that you gave her a question and she mediated and then she sat down and wrote. I’m just wondering, where do you stand on, perhaps, digital mediation apps that have become more popular like, for example, Headspace, which I’ve used in the past?
MarianneMcGuire: Anything that helps somebody go within is wonderful. It depends on your personality type. If it helps you set aside … You know, you can even set an alarm. … set aside time each day. Some people love guided visualizations. I recommend you just make stillness your friend. You make stillness your friend. Some people just close their eyes, go into the stillness, and that’s absolutely fine. Do whatever suits you. There’s no right or wrong.digital
Bryan Collins: Do you think practicing stillness daily is something that can help you focus?
MarianneMcGuire: Oh my God, yes. It totally, totally, increases productivity because of the proclivity to overthink. In this Society, the monkey mind, who wants to go through life spinning their wheels? The cultured thoughts fall away naturally without you having to do anything. I mean, this is why [inaudible 00:14:34] very, very well know, hugely successful nurse, used this. This isn’t some esoteric practice. For example, Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter, and founder and CEO of Square, Steve Jobs, Apple, Tim Ferriss … Tim Ferriss, who you mentioned, actually he wrote The 4 Hour Work Week, he interviewed 140 highly successful people, and he discovered that the vast majority of them meditated. They chose to create this habit; mindfulness and meditation.
MarianneMcGuire: What is just so important for this … I mean, when you see hugely successful people doing it, you have to … We need to learn from that. They’re not sitting around in the lotus position, wearing mala beads, and just doing it for the fun of it. They’re doing it because it’s increasing the bottom line at their … Obviously, they’re feeling more fulfilled in their everyday lives.
Bryan Collins: If I wanted to get started with meditation would it be enough for me to just start with at least just five minutes a day before I go to work or start writing?
MarianneMcGuire: Yes. Bryan, do you know what? Do you know what? The concern I have with some people, because they do this, “I don’t even have five moverinutes.” And they don’t do it. What I would say is, “Look, start with anything. Even if you go outside and listen to a bird singing for 30 seconds. Hey, it’s a start. Then, the next day, do it for a minute. The next day, do it for two minutes. The next day … ‘Yeah, this is great. I’ve loved it so much.’ Then do it for five minutes, until you’ve progressed to 20 minutes a day.”
MarianneMcGuire: Look, there have been times when I’ve done four hours at a time. I’ve got up early. That’s different, I’ve been doing it for years, and maybe there’s something particular I have to uncover, discover, but if you’re just starting out, oh my God, the difference 20 minutes makes. We’re talking about the difference in the bottom line, and your life, creativity, it affects every area of your life. It’s huge.
MarianneMcGuire: Definitely, definitely start with five minutes, and then you’ll want to continue, you’ll want to continue. Just don’t pressure yourself. To think [inaudible 00:16:38] insignificant.
Bryan Collins: Okay. Marianne, where can people find you or your art?
MarianneMcGuire: They can find my art website is my name, www.mariannemcguire.com, that’s M-C-G-U-I-R-E. Then, letgoandknow.com is where I help people with all of this, to let go of struggle, know who they really are, so they can live juicy, creative lives at last.
Bryan Collins: That was great. Thanks again for your time, Marianne.
MarianneMcGuire: You’re so welcome, Bryan. Thank you so much. It was a pleasure to be here with you.
Bryan Collins: I hope you enjoyed this podcast episode. If you did, please leave a rating on the iTunes store. If you want to accomplish more with your writing, please visit becomeawritertoday.com/join and I’ll send you a free email course. Thanks for listening.Myvapro2017$$
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