The last five years have been very traumatic for me as I had to go through back to back to back grief. I went through the following: Mum’s cancer diagnosis (2018), Losing mum at 55 (2019), getting laid off from a gig (2020), marital separation (2021/2022) and getting divorced (2022/2023). It’s been highly traumatic navigating the emotional rollercoaster of this series of grief. Two of the coping mechanisms that have helped me not lose my head and self in the process are my meditation and writing process. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I started meditating daily, and I also started educating myself on how to write by reading writing books and immersing myself in the writing process.
To improve my writing, I read multiple books, memoirs and essays, watched multiple masterclass.com writing sessions, and watched various interviews of writers discussing their writing process. Here are some of the materials that helped me improve as a writer.
- Writing Books: Writing Down the Bones 1, Bird by Bird 2, On Writing Well 3, The Book You Were Born to Write, How To Write Non-Fiction, Everybody Writes, Mason Currey‘s Daily Rituals,
- Memoir: Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, James Patterson by James Patterson, Steve Pressfield‘s Govt Cheese a memoir,
- Writing Masterclass: Margaret Atwood’s Masterclass, Dan Brown’s Masterclass, Malcolm Gladwell’s Masterclass, James Patterson’s Masterclass, N. K. Jemisin’s Masterclass, Salman Rushdie’s Masterclass, Roxanne Gay’s Masterclass, R.L.Stine’s Masterclass, Judy Blume’s Masterclass, David Baldacci’s Masterclass, Shonda Rhimes Masterclass, Amy Tan’s Masterclass,
- Essays: Jack Kerouac’s 30 Beliefs and Techniques for Writing,
- Tools: The Five Minutes Journal, The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal,
Writing was going to be a cathartic and therapeutic process of dealing with my grief. I have been using this blog to make sense of the challenges of life I am navigating, writing about my process of becoming great and getting better with the consistency that is becoming inherent in every other part of my life. One can either get bitter or get better, get the message or stay stuck with the mess, wallow in pain or recycle the pain. I decided to keep moving on no matter what life throws at me, and a lot has been thrown at me in the past five years. Writing has been one of the best coping mechanisms that has made me stronger in the past couple of months.
My Daily Writing Practice
- Writing-based Meditation: I usually start my day meditating through the calm-guided meditation session. I particularly enjoy listening and simultaneously writing out Daily Calm with Tamara Levitt and Daily Jay with Jay Shetty. By writing out what these two great teachers say every morning, I use it as a way to get into my writing flow daily.
- One blog per day: Since the beginning of June 2023, I have tried to write at least one blog post per day based on the topic that I am presently ruminating on for that day.
Shitty First Draft
The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later. You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page.
The first draft is the downdraft—you just get it down. The second draft is the updraft—you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, healthy.
Writing is a path to meet ourselves and become intimate. Think about it: Ants don’t do it. Trees don’t. Not even thoroughbred horses, mountain elk, house cats, grass, or rocks do it. Writing is a uniquely human activity. It might even be built into our DNA. It should be put forward in the Declaration of Independence, along with the other inalienable rights: “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—and writing.
Like running, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Some days you don’t want to run and you resist every step of the three miles, but you do it anyway. You practice whether you want to or not. You don’t wait around for inspiration and a deep desire to run. It’ll never happen, especially if you are out of shape and have been avoiding it. But if you run regularly, you train your mind to cut through or ignore your resistance. You just do it. And in the middle of the run, you love it. When you come to the end, you never want to stop. And you stop, hungry for the next time.
Writing Practice – a regularly scheduled time when you practice writing. This doesn’t mean you have to write perfectly or craft something that will actually go into your book someday. The only commitment is that you sit down to do it, at your scheduled time, whether or not you feel like it. This willingness to do the thing, at the specified time, even if you don’t feel like it, is the defining characteristic of a practice. It’s the same diligence you apply to a yoga practice, or a meditation practice, or even an exercise regimen.
Writing anything—good or bad, brilliant or sh*tty—is better than not writing at all. For a writer, a day when pen touches page is a successful day. Writing comes before all other pleasures—if only because very little else is pleasurable until one has done one’s daily writing.
- Daily Calm with Tamara Levitt – Distraction
- At every turn, distractions bombard our attention, and while they are rarely urgent, they command a feeling of urgency and immediacy. Distraction can cause consequences, large and small, like when our thoughts wander into daydreams in a conversation and we are only or when limited concentration causes poor performance on a school project.
- A big part of meditation involves training our mind to concentrate, which is a hard thing to do for even 60 seconds straight. This ability to focus can be illuminating in meditation, but it becomes immensely valuable when we take it off the mat and into our lives.
- The human brain is an incredible machine, but neuroscience reveals that the brain has limitations, and one of them is just how sensitive our attention is to interruptions. Our obsession with seeking out and consuming information is rooted in our ancient survival instincts. In a sense, distractibility is in our nature, but we need to tamper it with; in order to do anything well.
- Daily Jay with Jay Shetty – Mix It Up
- Building 20 (18 Vassar Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts) was a temporary timber structure hastily erected during World War II on the central campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Some of the greatest innovations in the 20th century were conceived in those walls, and it was not in spite of but because of its terrible design.
- Building 20, AKA Plywood Palace, was where MIT stuffed everyone they couldn’t find space for, regardless of discipline. It housed an acoustic lab, a linguistic lab and a modern rail club. The hallways were so challenging to navigate that even long-term occupants frequently got lost. Different specialists were bumping into each other due to the design, and relationships bloomed which ultimately led to unparalleled innovation.
- Creativity requires inspiration and a diversity of ideas crashing into one another. Building 20 offered its residents a wide variety of thinkers to cross-pollinate with. It was so successful that companies such as Pixar and Google have attempted to integrate casual interaction into the design of their offices.
- Mix It Up: Work one day a week from a coffee shop on the other side of town, grab lunch with a different group of friends than you are used to, join a pub school of strangers, or volunteer somewhere new. Talk to people and get interested in them. Initiate an exchange of ideas with people outside of your immediate circle, it may be what you need to expand your mind.
- How to Be Happy, Reverse Bucket Lists, The Four False Idols, and More — Arthur C. Brooks: The Tim Ferriss Podcast
All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.