Monday, May 24, 2010

The Cool Down: Coming Back to Center

I tend to be gung ho. A typical Aries, I jump into my gig with gusto, head first, full steam ahead. As soon as I wake up I’m mentally preparing my to do list for the day. As I whip up breakfast and lunches for my trio, I orchestrate the kitchen shuffle with focus and purpose. Packing backpacks, finding socks and giving last minute kisses, all before I finish my first cup of very black coffee, I’m writing emails in my head to people I need to connect with for some reason or another, thinking about this blog and mentally preparing for my private sessions. Before the morning really takes off, I pop my one-year-old daughter in the stroller and we’re rolling…gotta get my morning walk in, my only time to exercise and spend some time with the babe before I attack my day.

And then, oddly backwards and magically, I cool down. The first part of my walk is all about gratitude. I soak in the cool morning elements and think of all the things in my life I’m grateful for, opening myself up to more good things coming my way. The second part I tend to focus on perfecting my craft and create mini mental action plans to take follow up with. The final leg is the cool down, that fun stretch where I let my mind wander. That’s where we are with Passion this week, the cool down (Not to be confused with the cool off! No, no, dear writers! Keep those fires burning!).

It’s our last week focusing on Passion and it’s been quite the mental workout. It’s time to relax a bit, let the mind wander, get our hands dirty and our hair a little ruffled. It’s time to go with the flow and see where it takes us.

During a coaching session, my client, let’s call her Mel, was so thrilled to tell me about her indulgent writing experience after surviving NaNoWriMo. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. For those who participate, this organization guides and cheers on those who join for the entire month of November to bang out their novel with a specific word count goal. It’s intense. You’re supposed to write through writers block, bad plot, uninspired days, lack of sleep, “just do it” kind of writing. It’s nothing short of writing book camp. Despite all good planning and preparation, it left Mel (a graduate student of a hoity toity English University of J.K. Rowling fame) in a totally deflated, uninspired heap, with a novel she’s pretty sure will never see its way to an agent’s “must read first” pile. NaNoWriMo works for some writers, but not for Mel. It’s just not her style.

She had to take a break, a major cool down from her whirlwind writing month, to reconnect with her passion. When we resumed our sessions, she relayed how thrilled she was to have had some time to write just for herself. Not to get anywhere with it, necessarily, but to write for the sake of languidly pondering over words, choosing just the right one and letting it roll around in the mind. Just enjoying the luxury of word choice like wrapping up in a luscious cashmere blanket on a rainy day. Finding her center again, she came back to writing with newfound inspiration and appreciation for her craft.

I thought of this as I finished the last leg of my walk through the park near my home. As I rounded the corner, my thoughts and steps literally stopped in their respective tracks as an enormous red poppy commanded my attention like a firecracker of an exclamation point to Mel’s experience. Perfect timing, I thought. The bottom line? On our paths to writing and publishing success, it’s important to take some time now and then to truly reconnect with the source of our Passion. Not to get anywhere, necessarily, but just for the sake of our own enjoyment.

Your workout this week: Take time to relax from your writing schedule to do something that will bring you back to center, back to the source of your Passion. Take a few hours or take an entire day! Cook, get knuckle deep in your garden, paint with your kids, enjoy a few hours on the beach with some French roast (my idea of perfect!), read a hilarious book (ever read David Sedaris?), play the piano, write for fun, whatever! There are no rules. Savor the experience and enjoy the heck out of yourselves! Think about how great you feel and be thankful for the experience. You’ll head back to your regular writing schedule revived and inspired.

I would love to hear how it goes. Please do share your experiences with the group this week and let’s get this party started! I’ll jump in on this workout, too. Stay tuned…


  1. Hi Erin,

    Well, we seem to be on the same wavelength once again. Saturday morning, I had a scene to write, a birthday party to prepare for, and myriad other morsels that were vying for my attention. I couldn't decide where to throw my energy first. How to prioritize. Then, I remembered a saying from a friend of mine--a saying that has been a mainstay of her sobriety (22 years), and that's the AA phrase: pause when agitated or doubtful.

    So I paused, and then it became quite clear that I needed to take a walk and sort it all out. Lo and behold, a 45 minute brisk walk up the hills near my house led me to a creative epiphany with the aforementioned scene, a solution to the "goody bag" dilemma for my son's bday party, and grounded me enough to realize that everything I needed to make the day a success would emerge in due order.

    And it did!


  2. Love it, Suzy. A good walk can clear up just about anything that's got you in a quandry.

    Hope you partake in the "cool down" exercise this week. Post it here and tell us all about it!


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