I’ve been recording the videos for a new online writing course with the working title “Creative Inspirations”. The course was born from the fact that, at some time in their life, almost every writer looks at a blank screen or a blank page and realises they don’t know how to get started.
For me, this happens quite regularly. Indeed, I could say it happens almost every weekend when it’s time to write a blog post. Sadly, although each class in the course will provide a new activity or insight to trigger ideas, I’m not sure it’s what I need for writing here; I do, however, hope it will be of use to other writers and poets who have hit a bit of a wall.
As I said, I’ve been recording videos for the course. Once they’ve been recorded, I pass them across to be processed and then we sit down and decide what else needs to be added on screen in the way of captions, comments, glosses or annotations.
The first few classes have been recorded and processed now and the question has arisen whether I want to change the course name: apparently, the classes seem to deal as much with mindfulness as with writing.
To be fair, I know very little about “mindfulness” as the word appears to be currently understood. So I took a look at the relevant page on the NHS website. I’m a bit concerned by the view of Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, given on the page:
Mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.
Even on a day when nothing seems to be happening, there are a tremendous number of things going on. Trying to be aware of all of them seems to me to be a sure way to become even more overwhelmed by life.
I do, however, think that focus and close observation are vital to the writer, and that is a recurring theme of the course videos. When you’re stuck for something to write, it is often because you are looking vaguely around you and there are simply too many potential subjects.
Even in the smallest space there are many visual stimuli, not to mention all the sounds and scents that are there if you actually stop to think about them. But when there are many options, we tend to flit between them, looking only superficially, and that’s when you see very little and often understand less.
The thing to do, therefore, is to choose something and really look at it. The closer you look, the more you see.
As I was walking back through the park the other lunchtime, I noticed dozens, perhaps hundreds, of tiny orange insects among the thistles, so I stopped to see what they were.
I was half expecting some kind of nasty winged beetle, but when I saw them settle and saw their fat, furry bodies and the way their wings folded, I thought they must be daytime moths.
I took some photographs, which I looked at again when I downloaded them onto the computer. And that’s when I noticed the antennae and realised they were actually butterflies. In the end, I think I’ve identified them as small skippers.
And now I want to know whether they are skippers because they skip between the flowers – in which case, does the Essex skipper trip up on her white stilettos? – or is there is some connection between butterflies and boats? If it’s the latter, do the skippers take orders from red admirals?
And now having paused to focus on one thing and then follow the chain of thoughts that arose, I’ve almost reached the end of yet another blog post.
To round off, let’s have a long and rather rambling piece of poetry, which is probably best not taken too seriously, but read aloud in a slightly grandiose manner and with lots of “meaningful” pauses.
Detach: a relaxation exercise
Lie down and close your eyes.
Untense your joints;
unknot the ligaments and muscles;
calm your thoughts.
Keeping your eyes closed,
on your tongue.
so it does not touch your teeth
or push against your palate.
Hold still. Hold
your tongue still.
Let your breath flow
round your tongue.
Feel the warmth of your breath
surround your tongue.
and all around;
on all sides.
(Except where it is rooted at the hyoid bone.)
Hold the position in silence.
draw your thoughts
inwards; draw them
and into your skull.
how the brain attaches to the bone
with fibres, membrane, filaments,
cobwebs of memory.
and carefully unhook
from the corners
of your skull.
Release each filament in turn.
Detach the membrane,
from the cranium;
sweep clean the cobwebs,
and try to reach
a point of equilibrium,
the stable moment where
each point of pull
is balanced and the brain
is held in equilibrium.
Observe the gap between brain and bone;
observe the empty space where no
Be conscious of the firmly rooted tongue.
Be conscious of the brain that floats free