In the last post I shared the exercise I used to help me develop awareness. You can read the post here.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. When I started Laura’s Morning Routine, I had planned to take the data and make a graph with it in excel. I expected to find some sort of beautiful pattern that I could analyze my awareness. Several months in I realized that I didn’t need to analyze the data.
If you’ll remember, this trio of posts was about developing awareness in order to learn feel and the only way to learn feel is to experience something over and over until you just know. I didn’t need to analyze the data because at that point I had learned the feel of myself.
What I Learned About Myself
1) I saw a shift in my mind and spirit right before my period. It allowed me to mark that on my calendar so I was aware of it and for the effects of it. In the past I would have a few days of depression, now it’s regularly down to no more than a few hours at a time.
2) I began to see patterns in my mental state based on events that happened. That probably sounds like common sense: When something stressful happens in my life, I am effected by it. What I learned, though, was my mind often attributed the stress to something completely unrelated to what I was actually stressed about.
In April of 2005 (while I was doing this exercise), I found out that one of my cats was starving to death because she had severe periodontal disease that my husband and I wrote off as ‘bad breath’. She had to have surgery to remove all of her teeth. You can read about my reaction to this here, which is when I had a real breakthrough in understanding about how my mind hid the true reason for my depression under myriad other complaints for three terrible weeks.
I only knew that something was wrong, however, because I knew what normal was for me, and I was still stuck in it until I reached out to my riding coach, who was able to talk me to awareness.
3) I became more aware of my mental states. While I would write down an overall number for each day, I began to be aware of different periods within those days where I was one number or another that would later shift. This is when I knew I was really raising my awareness, because it expanded to times when I needed it and not just the time I was actively practicing it. And when this happened, I began to figure out when I could then consciously shift my mental state, and when my mind or spirit really needed to be low.
4) I really got to understand that my emotions happen, they change, and that they’re supposed to. And with being able to see the overall data over weeks and months, I was able to put less weight on the way I was feeling in any given moment because I knew it would be changing. In truth, it helped the lows be less low because I didn’t focus on them as much, and made the highs higher because I would be aware of them and grateful for it.
The thing is, that without the experience of looking into myself and my life, I never would have been able to develop the feel about myself that I did. The numbers don’t matter, I threw them away at the end of the year, but the feel I had developed in creating them was invaluable. There is no way around this. If you want to develop feel, then you have to be aware.
So How Does this Apply to Writing?
That being said, here’s where I tie this all back into writing. I promised I would. I admit the post got away from me a bit, but I hope seeing my results will give you some insights.
I used my new-found awareness to track how productive I was in different environments, doing different types of writing, etc. I didn’t change what I normally did at this point any more than I changed my life at the beginning of the year when I was focusing on awareness. I also didn’t use numbers at this point (though you’re certainly welcome to, do what works for you.) but over time I became aware of what worked and what didn’t and collected those common elements.
Things that I Discovered:
Where: I can’t write facing a wall, I need space in front of me. Other than that it doesn’t matter much.
When: I write much better in the mornings and after dinner it’s really a struggle to write creatively, though revision can still happen late in the day.
What: Location doesn’t matter so much (as long as I’m not facing a wall) but the amount of distraction in the space does. New prose is harder to write with noise or activity of any kind (that includes music). Revision and smoothing, it doesn’t matter as much, though part of that could be because I like revision best so it’s easier to keep focused.
How: Writing new prose is best on my phone or netbook where I don’t have access to the Internet. Revisions and smoothing are better on my computer with the large monitor.
Once I began to get a feel for what worked, I was able to focus on changing things up. I would try a new place or a new technique I had learned. Most people suggest trying something new for at least two weeks to see if it works, but since I’ve learned to better distinguish the ‘this isn’t right’ from the ‘I don’t like this’, I often don’t need to spend more than a week or so trying it out. The important thing to keep in mind is to trust yourself and your feel.
I know there are those of you who might want to skip right to this exercise because the writing is what you care about. I get that and I wish you the best of luck with it. And you might take just a moment to ask yourself why you’re not willing to develop awareness in yourself. If it feels too ‘whoo whoo’ …I would argue that so does the concept of feel in general, but you know feel is real. If you don’t think you have the time …well if your goal is to become a professional author and have someone pay you for what you produce, then there is going to be time invested.
Overall, I hope that you were able to get some ideas or insights from this series of three posts. If none of this clicked for you, then great, you tried it and now you can move on and try something else. If you got something valuable then I’m so happy for you. Either way, feel free to leave me a comment and tell me what you thought. I look forward to hearing from you.