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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Writing Tips from Author, Marielena Zuniga

I'm excited to welcome Marielena Zuniga to my blog today for the writing tips segment. She'll be talking about using meditation to help your writing. I personally really loved this post because I have a lot of trouble focusing and staying on task.


Here is a bit about Marielena:

Marielena Zuniga is a creative writer and award-winning journalist of more than thirty-five years. She has been a staff writer for newspapers and magazines and worked in public relations in corporate and nonprofit environments. 

For the last ten years, her writing has focused on spirituality and women's issues and her feature articles have appeared in national and international magazines. She has earned prestigious journalism awards and her inspirational writing has won a few awards in the Writers Digest Magazine Annual Writing Competition. 

Her first novel "Loreen on the Lam: A Tennessee Mystery" (iPulp Fiction) http://www.ipulpfiction.com/indexLOREEN.html draws on her Southern roots. She was born in Texas and spent her summers as a child in Tennessee. Her book is a far cry from her inspirational writing and her quiet, spiritual personality and has been known to make people laugh, which still amazes her. She resides in Bucks County, PA. 

And now, here's Marielena:

How meditation can help your writing

I used to meditate. A lot. You know – that process where you sit down, light some candles or incense, and attempt to quiet your thoughts. Some days my “monkey mind” was all over the place with my to-do list, never in the present moment.

Other times I fell into a zone of deep peace and the comforting “now” where I focused on my breathing, forgetting past and future. Whatever happened was OK. No judgments. I simply allowed whatever was there – to be.

Now, I’m returning to mindfulness meditation as a daily practice for many reasons. And one of them is for my creative writing.

What is mindfulness meditation? Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program, defined it as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”

Now don’t let that scare you. Those are all ingredients to help your writing and enhance creativity. And I’ll let you in on a secret. You can’t fail at mindfulness meditation because it’s all about accepting WHATEVER is happening during the practice, no matter what it is.

So, how, can meditation help with the writing process? You’d be surprised.

A safe space to take risks. As a writer, I am always a little anxious. I am always putting myself “out there” – something that’s never been easy for me. When I quiet my thoughts, I can find a safe spot to land, a place that soothes the raw edges of my insecurities and helps me become a bit more of a risk taker in my writing.

Frees us from perfection. The mind loves to judge. As a writer, I am my own worst critic. I tend to feel what I’ve written is never good enough. But when I meditate, I give myself permission to be free of my own tyrannical judgments, as well as the opinions of others. I tend to be more gentle with myself. And while revisions are necessary, I reach a point of acceptance in my drafts. In one of my favorite books, “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” Annie Dillard writes: “The present is a freely given canvas. That it is constantly being ripped apart and washed downstream goes without saying.”

Being in the flow. Because meditation allows me to be open to my creative self, I find that words often flow more easily than they have in the past. Although writing my mystery “Loreen on the Lam” was hard work, the pieces seem to come together from another place within me. And I loved the process throughout.

Availability to new insights. When I still and quiet the mind, I am listening – not only to my breathing, heartbeat and the hundreds of senseless, random thoughts that run amok through my brain, but I am listening to what wants to be birthed and named. I am listening to the creative source that wants to have a voice. In that silence, insights, perceptions and ideas that may have been buried beneath the chaos of daily life begin to emerge.

So how do you meditate? Here are some simple pointers:

Set aside a time everyday. Try starting out for five minutes. Later you can add more time to your practice.

Find a place where you won’t be distracted. Sit upright, either feet on the floor or cross-legged, whatever is more comfortable. Close your eyes.

Focus on your breathing and only that. Breathe in; breathe out. Feel the breath entering your nostrils and going out.

Your thoughts WILL wander. This is normal. Meditation is NOT about emptying your mind of thoughts. It’s the opposite. You’ll be thinking about everything from what to make for dinner to revising your work in progress. When that happens, simply observe those thoughts, without judgment, let them go, and return the focus to your breath. Again and again and again. This is all part of the practice.

Ultimately, meditation, much like writing, is a discipline. And a practice. But it’s also about letting go and accepting whatever is happening in the moment. And as writers, we are constantly “holding on” to some aspect of our work.

But as artist/author Julia Cameron states so well, “The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.” When we surrender in meditation to the present moment, we allow a source higher than ourselves to express in our writing – and that can be humbling and surprising!

**********


Loreen Thigpen has a history of making bad decisions. But stealing Josh Montgomery’s tour bus from the Texas prison garage to go see her dying mom in Tennessee might be the worst decision ever.

Loreen on the Lam is chock-full of colorful characters worthy of Elmore Leonard – an escaped con, a battered wife, a deaf-mute Bible salesman and more. You’ll love them or hate them, laugh at them or cry with them, but you’ll root for Loreen in the end.

The plot is a (not-so-) simple road trip. Loreen needs to get from Houston, Texas, to Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee, to see her dying mother. The only problem is, Loreen’s in prison. Much of the action takes place in and around a bus Loreen steals – a bus owned by country superstar Josh Montgomery. The journey involves a family mystery, a murder plot, and a dash of mayhem.


Loreen on the Lam: A Tennessee Mystery is available through iPulp Fiction http://www.ipulpfiction.com/indexLOREEN.html and through Amazon and other outlets.

Facebook Author’s Page: http://www.facebook.com/Marielena.Zuniga

Twitter: @marielenazuniga

Blog: Stories for the Journey: Reflections on Writing, Life and the Spirit - https://mezuniga.wordpress.com/


7 comments:

  1. Wise words, Marielena, and very timely for me. Sometimes I think my worst writing enemy is impatience. I want the words to flow! I have trouble just opening myself and letting the story tell itself to me. Meditation would probably help.

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    1. I so understand, Sandy! I am the queen of impatience and critical of my work. Meditation helps. It's not a cure all. But it's certainly a great tool to have in our writer's toolbox!

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  2. I wonder if meditating over a glass of wine counts.

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    1. That made me laugh! Wine as "medication" or "meditation" ... whatever helps us get the words down on the page! Thanks for taking time to comment. :)

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  3. Family, work, and chores force me into this state. LOL The best inspiration for me is being kept from my writing.

    Great post. :)

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    1. Thanks, Melissa! While people can "sit" and have a "formal" practice of meditation, many people do an "informal" practice ... and that can include gardening, sewing, walking or whatever helps us be "in" the present moment. Thanks for taking time to comment! :)

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