7 April 2011 4 Comments

Meditating the next novel

I’ve written here in the past about how I use meditation techniques to get into the zone for writing every day. But now meditation seems to have helped me come up with the idea for my next novel.

Last week I was in a rotten mood. My son woke up too early. I hadn’t slept well. The boy was whiny and tossing his Cocoa Crispies on the floor. The crema on my espresso was too thin. Oh, blah blah blah. I packed Cai off to kindergarten and lay down to meditate, as I do before I begin work every day (I used to meditate after I finished work, but I often just fell asleep, so now I do it earlier).

I focused on creativity and positivity as I meditated. I started to get ideas about… well, I’m not going to tell you what the novel’s about before I write it. Let’s just say the idea of happiness and brain function – the very things behind successful meditation – led me into a historical thriller plot that I will start researching as soon as my current project, a novel about the Italian artist Caravaggio, is completed.

What neuroscience tells us about meditation (and any neuroscientist – she knows who I mean – reading this ought to refrain from writing comments about how dumb I’ve made this sound) is that positivity rewires the brain to be yet more positive. My meditation in question proves that in a small way. I was far from positive until I began the meditation. Suddenly I was as positive as I can be – coming up with a new novel isn’t something that happens every day.

Well, actually it does happen quite frequently (for example, just now I’m thinking, “What about a mystery novel set in the Swinging Sixties in which Benny Hill is the detective”…). But those ideas don’t carry the same element of certainty that this would be the novel for me to write. I had been juggling at least five ideas for my next book. None of them had struck me as absolutely right on a deep level. Dare I say it in these cynical times, on a spiritual level. They all had something logically right about them, but they didn’t feel right.

To an extent, I owe this idea of positivity to some recent chats with Tony Buzan, author of The Mind Map Book and other volumes. We spent time together at a recent book festival in Dubai. Tony’s main point is that we only use a tiny fraction of our brain’s capacity. About 1 percent. His work is designed to enable us to increase that percentage.

Our use of creative brain capacity in particular is gradually drilled out of us throughout our education and work life until our minds actively resist any task we don’t already know how to do. To demonstrate this in Dubai, he asked a group of people including me to write down everything that can’t be done with a paperclip. I scribbled six things and my brain just ground to a halt. That makes me about average.

One of Tony’s suggestions is that everyone should daydream and write poetry. I’ve been writing brief poems since I saw him and it’s surprising how liberating is poetry’s deliberate lack of “control” over images. It’s a control that we impose on ourselves in business writing and even in much novelistic writing. In novels, images may float a little above the ground, but they can’t really take wing. They’d look too “purple.” Well, that doesn’t apply to poetry.

Anyhow, more on mind mapping in future posts (because Mrs. Rees hasn’t let me get near Tony’s book for a couple of weeks). Tony also mentioned that “tweeting” is actively bad for you. I expect blogging isn’t much better. So I’d better get back to my meditation right now.

4 Responses to “Meditating the next novel”

  1. susie 7 April 2011 at 11:57 am #

    neuroscientists are overrated. they function to explain truths that the Reeses and Buzans already know; and strangely, they often don’t take advantage of the truths they explain about the brain.
    i’m going to meditate now. :)

  2. Matt Beynon Rees 7 April 2011 at 10:00 pm #

    A “Smileyface” is the beginning of a great meditation, Susie. And not ALL neuroscientists are overrated…:)

  3. Kat 9 April 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    I stopped blogging after death threats, so I can tick that off my list.

    Related to another of your posts about publicity, one thing I started doing is tweeting, building a platform and a healthy following for the future. But now I see tweeting is actively bad for me.

    Shall we say ‘everything in balance’? 😉

  4. Matt Beynon Rees 10 April 2011 at 12:15 am #

    You’re right, Kat. I’m glad something good came out of the…death threats! (What was behind them?)

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