So…how can you stimulate your creativity and stay connected to your writing life as you navigate life's mundane responsibilities?
Here are a couple of tips to get you started.
Years ago I called a nearby Benedictine nunnery and asked to stay with them for a week-long writing retreat. I lived alone for a week in a sparsely furnished room. The grounds were cultivated, the food unmemorable, and my sense of the place was monochromatic somehow, as if everything was washed in a diluted, chestnut stain.
On the way home, I decided I'd stop into a Seven-Eleven for a tuna sandwich.
I got out of my car and walked into the store. The door swung closed behind me and I remember standing at the threshold, dumbstruck.
The store lights were garish and just past the cashier was a plexiglass-covered cooker with sumo-sized sausages spinning slowly round and round. I looked to the left and saw a shelf with endless -- endless! -- varieties of nuts. Above my head, slick banners saturated with intense reds and greens swung in the draft of the air conditioner.
I got the tuna sandwich. But I lost some of my appetite that day.
I realized I wanted to live more simply.
And that we truly have SO MUCH.
(If you've traveled outside the country and returned, I know you can relate to this story.)
Love It! Tip #1:
The next time you find yourself at the grocery store, go down the cereal aisles and try to see the shelves with fresh eyes. Notice how abundant your world is, and how nearly obscene it is that we have so many tastes and textures, boxes and brands to choose from.
As you add an item to your basket, set the intention that you'll use the food or product to create good. Say a small "thank you" inside.
You can transform the mundane task of shopping into a practice of gratitude, an instant mood-lifter.
But beyond feeling good, the practice of gratitude can help you perceive and receive more wonderfulness in your life and writing. The next time you come up with an enticing creative idea, see a fascinating cloud formation or notice someone doing good for someone else, say a simple "thank you." Repeat often.
When you practice relating to the world with thankfulness, you stoke your creativity and set yourself up for perceiving -- and receiving -- more insights, creative ideas and abundance in your life… and your writing.
Try it and see.
Part of writing well is being truthful and responsive. To perceive right action on the page and be able to respond to your insights takes agility and awareness. And there's no better place to cultivate your ability to see clearly than observing yourself out in the "real" world.
As you cruise the aisles, watch how you react to other people as you shop.
Do you fully engage with the deli clerk? Or simply state your order curtly?
How do you respond when someone crowds you out of the potato section? Cuts in front of you in line? Do you hold on to your anger or eventually bless the person and let them go?
Do you tell the cashier when she forgets to ring up the almost-empty coffee in your hand?
Lots of us try to enlighten ourselves with meditation or other personal development practices. But if you're not trying to practice what you're learning out in the real world --- away from the mat, as my meditation teacher likes to say -- then you're missing the whole point.
Love It! Tip #2:
If you aspire to practicing kindness, patience and honesty when you're being "spiritual," use your outing to the grocery store to practice being all these good things out in the world, too. That process -- of watching your reactions and aligning them more closely to your ideals -- correlates directly to the practice of being truthful and responsive when you write. Cultivate discernment as you write. Use your weekly trip to the grocery store to practice the art of listening in the real world, too.
There's also room for fun.
If you go to the market on a weekly basis, you'll start to see familiar faces behind the register. Sometimes, before the clerk has a chance to ask how I'm doing, I ask how their day is going. It's interesting to watch people's reactions. Sometimes I get a cynical "what's it to you, lady?" look, but more often than not I see the man or woman behind the name tag straighten their backs and smile as they tell me about their day.
The next time I come in, we have a little relationship to build on. Suddenly the world seems a little warmer and welcoming as a result.
There are lots of opportunities to smile at the market. If you don't feel like talking much, then don't. Just watch the people in line. Or spend extra time in the chocolate aisle to marvel at the wrappers and colors. Linger for a moment at the candle section to check out the scents, or hang out in the gadgets aisle to check out the action on the new tongs or garlic press. (Hey, to each his own.)
The point is, you're spending your time at the market. A brief slice of your life at the market.
Bring your humanity with you and find something to delight in when you shop. When you practice being more fully alive wherever you go, you'll have even more of yourself to draw from when you sit back down to write.