3 Deep Breaths for Writing Success


3 Deep Breaths for Writing Success

It's summer. If you're a parent, these are the days of sleeping an extra 30 minutes in the morning because there are no lunches to pack, no socks to find, and no toast to take to butter. If you're a nine-to-fiver, you probably enjoy your morning commute just a little bit more. Am I right? Why?

Things s l o w  d o w n  a little bit and i t  f e e l s  g o o d.

We have a chance to catch our breath. We start to notice something other than the dialogue keeping us company in our head. We slow down enough to experience more meaningful moments in the summertime.

And that's where I want to take you in your writing today.  

S L O W your writing D O W N enough to have a sensory experience as the words tumble out of your fingers.

Full confession here: I stink at this. I have to practice this every single day. After 27 years of writing, I still must consciously follow three steps in order to find the sweet spot of my own writing - where time stops and the words take over. Just like you I get up to a blank page, and just like you I have big ideas on the inside I’m trying to communicate with words. Sometimes the gap between what I’m dreaming up and what I’m able to write stares me down and shakes my belief in myself, and if I stay there too long I won’t write a thing. So I learned to breathe, and not just air, but inspiration and I follow a practice of exhaling the words.

I call these steps my Three Breaths of Writing:

Breath One

Exhale onto the page. Get the blahbiddyblahblahblah out. Type or write as fast as you want. Write as unconsciously as it feels. Let the anxiety, anticipation, excitement and whatever else compelled you sit down in the first place drive the bus. Write as you pour all of the electricity out on to the page. It might feel like vomiting. Some days are like that. It might feel like a first kiss (those are my favourite days). It might feel like doing the laundry, mind-numbing but necessary. Just do it. Exhale first. Exhale until there is nothing left to drain out. Fall for a while. Burn off the outer layer of anticipation and give it all to the page. I mean all of it, or breath two won't happen.

Breath Two

Inhale slowly and repeatedly. Once you've exhaled fully, your natural instinct is to inhale. You don't even have to think about it. Just let the inhale happen. Don't watch it, don't plan it, don't try. Just inhale. This is harder to think about than to do. This transition takes practice. Bottom line: keep writing as an exhale until there's no words left.

Watch what happens: noticing (as if a character) takes control of the wheel. Noticing happens all the time, we're just not tuned in to it. There is nothing for you to 'do' here. Notice. Notice. Notice, and as you notice, write. Noticing things cultivates curiosity and more noticing until, just like breathing, you can take in no more air and you simply must exhale.

Breath Three

Exhale in service of the emerging story. Breathing in has shifted from noticing to breathing out as following. Follow the story. Something has shifted from all of that noticing. Listen to the words as they pour out. Let them write you. They want to do that. Play in the space of following because this is what momentum feels like. You are not writing, the writing is happening from you. Keep writing until the exhale is complete or the path forks and you're into a new thought.

Then inhale what you notice.
Exhale what you're excited about.
Inhale what you notice.
Exhale as you follow.

Can you see the pattern?

S L O W  D O W N and write this summer. Breathe and write, write and breathe.


TinaO is a Writer, Story Coach, and the other half of The Writer's Compass with Meribeth Deen. She is the host of the TinaOShow, collecting and telling Stories from the Core and co-owner with Gina Best of The LEAP Learning LabThe Writer's Compass encourages writers to go off the beaten path and create impactful stories from the core. We teach: writing isn't precious, it's a practice.

Want to join Tina's online writing group? Check out the Core Story Writers Facebook group.

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