The art of stillness


We all lead busy lives. We are constantly bombarded with images, information, stimulus. This constant chattering in the mind is not good for us mentally, and I think, not a good environment for us to be creative. I know I find it very hard to be creative when my mind is pinging me with a million others things I need to be doing.

What strategies do you have for creating the stillness necessary for a creative mindset?

Some people like to play music. Others, like me, prefer quiet. Some can find stillness in a coffee shop – that doesn’t work for me either. I couldn’t even settle in a library – it was too nosiy for me! (On a side-note, does anyone else long for the days when libraries were quiet places where you weren’t game to speak above a whisper?)

I can be in a perfectly quiet room and still have my mind pinging off in different directions. It’s the internal, not the external, I need to control. Way easier said than done.

In November last year, I started daily journalling. First thing every morning – well, after I feed the cat, and make a cup of tea – I go outside with my journal and my cuppa. Usually I’m up before the rest of the family but for when my son gets up before me, I’m slowly training him not to disturb me during that time 🙂 And I write. At first it was hard – what should I be writing, what rules do I need to follow? But once I gave myself permission to write whatever I liked, things flowed. Most days my journal entry is a recount of the day before – what we did, how I was feeling etc. Much like the diary I kept as a teenager but without the “my parents won’t let me do anything – all my friends are allowed to go to the movies but I’m stuck at home…” angst. (Now I have far more grown up angst 🙂 )

Yes, some days my journal is angsty. Full of pain or confusion. Some days I jot down description of the sky, the sounds I can hear, what I can smell (has the neighbour down the street fertilised their garden with blood and bone again?!). Other times I’ll reach into my memory bank and write about a childhood memory. I write, and I sip my tea, and gaze out into the garden (and try to ignore all the weeding and whipper-snippering that needs doing). Some days my entry reads more like a to-do list, but that’s ok. It helps empty my mind of the thoughts crowding my creativity out. Some days an idea for a story will jump into my head and I write it down. I have no rules.

I’m pleased to say I’ve kept it up since November, only missing Christmas morning. Because, you know, watching my son open his presents took precedence.

Now I’m taking things a step further. I’m trying to add a five minute meditation into my morning before I start journalling. And it’s tough. Five minutes can seem like a lifetime. I do yoga once or twice a week, and we always end with a ten minute relaxation / meditation. Physically exhausted after yoga and with the instructor guiding us, it’s usually pretty easy to fall into a relaxed state. Doing it on my own, trying to stop the thoughts of what I have to do today, is hard.

But I know it’s worth it, so I’ll persevere.

I’m also trying to remind myself throughout the day to stop and really think about what I’m doing. Concentrate on the warmth of the mug when I’m having a cuppa. Really feel the peanut butter sticking to the roof of my mouth at breakfast. Not just doing things mindlessly. It helps still the mind – and as a bonus, that’s the type of small detail that we can add into our writing to bring the reader closer to our characters.

Do you need to still your mind before you can be creative? What strategies do you use?


9 thoughts on “The art of stillness

  1. Hmmm great thought provoking post Ms K.
    As I am sitting reading your strategies to combat the profusion of sound that has taken over our lives, I (like you) am sitting with my cuppa (inside though) – no-one else up, and yet still there was escaping noise. Two birds, I presume the same ones who’ve been pilfering the fruit, were arguing outside the window among the mango tree branches, and the long screech of a plover filled the air – ( I love that lonely cry). Two houses away and their dog is barking – god knows at what, there’s no-one in the street! In the far off distance ( I have good hearing still ) the sound of trucks and cars on a road. And then every now and again the fan on my computer hummed in. So I don’t really think we can ever rid ourselves of the chaotic external sound.
    But I wonder if sometime for many of us IT IS the internal noise that is more irritating.
    I am like my mum. I can walk/sit/drive and out of nowhere ask myself loud questions, – as natural as breathing – I answer them, dissect them, try to reason the issue out, and like your journal, most of the issues that arise ARE of what’s currently going on in my life. SO my brain is NEVER still. Hence why, I think being creative with my writing is one way of releasing all that built up of WHY WHY WHY!!
    My other release as you know is in my ARTWORK. Nothing soothes the soul for me like spreading colour on a canvas. Ahhhh ……

  2. Reblogged this on Maryde and commented:

    I rarely Re-post, but I found this topic of Kerrie’s really interesting and thought provoking, so I decided to share.
    Thank – You Kerrie Patterson.

  3. I’ve just had a cuppa kindly made by my husband and was eating peanut butter toast as I read your comment about it sticking to the roof of your mouth! It does!

    You’re right, Kerrie, about the internal noise being more distracting in many ways. I, too, need ‘quiet’ in which to write and yes, I wish libraries were still as quiet as when I was a kid. Sharing this now. Thanks for such a thoughtful post, and for reminding me to listen to the small daily pleasures.

  4. A great post Kerrie. Like you I need peace and quite to think and write. Living in town now I find that hard at times as their are so many outside noises that can distract me, like dogs barking, the neighbour having his radio up so loud it would wake the dead, kids screaming and so on. I never had any of that on the farm.
    Yes then there’s the internal thoughts racing through my head like a freight train. It can be characters wanting to get their story out there, can be a pain when I have characters from two novels fighting for my attention.
    And now my hubby has just started up the whipper snipper. So no peace for me at the moment.

    • Thanks for the comment, Sandie. I’m very sensitive to noise – a throb of a motor somewhere outside or in another room will drive me mad when no-one else can hear it. So I feel your pain! I hope you get some quiet time for yourself today.

  5. Kerrie – what a great post.
    Getting up to write each morning takes great discipline and I think it’s a good thing to do, it gets the mind moving and you get rid of a lot of issues. I’ve tried it and drift into dream and stop the writing mid-flow because I’ve thought of something which needs doing now. It really takes some effort to stay put and write. I find noise distracting when I start to write, but once I get going it has to be very loud for me to notice.
    Quiet time is so hard to find ….

  6. Awesome post Kerrie and such an important one. To be able to free the mind even for a few minutes of the constant stress and chatter like, I need to do this, I need to do that! I also find noise distracting but only man made noise. The sounds of nature soothe me and often can put me in a contemplative state. Bushwalking is my ‘whew’ time and I MUST make more time for it!

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