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Posts tagged ‘brainwaves’

First Monday Mentoring May 2017 – how to write while you sleep

Last month I discussed the importance of happiness to your writing. Following that, I was asked why we get some of our best ideas just before sleep or as we’re waking up.

The reason is our state of mind at these times. The floaty time before we fall sleep is called hypnagogic and the time before full awakening is hypnopompic.  These times between sleeping and waking can be rich sources of inspiration.

Writer Robert Louis Stevenson, composer Wolfgang Mozart and scientist Albert Einstein are among the great thinkers who’ve said they produced some of their best ideas during these periods. Writers today can discover the same. The sense of mental and physical relaxation as well as the kinds of brainwaves we produce, may be the magic ingredients.

Alpha and Theta

Measured by an encephalogram, we are known to produce Alpha and theta brainwaves as we sink into sleep, or return to wakefulness. These are the slower brainwave cycles when it’s easier to form new ideas. By practising mental and physical relaxation techniques, you can learn to produce these waves.

Like acquiring any habit, you first use your conscious mind to access the alpha-theta state. Many recorded guides are available to help. You may need to try a few to find one that suits you. I try to do a 30-minute relaxation exercise most days.

When you’re able to achieve a tranquil mood and can sustain it for a little time, you can try using it to solve writing problems or access new ideas.

Drop the problem or question into your mind like a pebble into a pool, then let it go. Don’t try to force ideas to come. Instead, trust your mind to keep working on the problem while you sleep.

Have a notebook or smart phone handy to record whatever comes up at the end of your relaxation period. While the times just before or after sleep are rich sources of inspiration, they’re not good for storing short-term memories. Unless you write your brilliant idea down you’re likely to wake up knowing you had a great idea if only you could remember what it was.

While you rest, information you may not have been aware of gathering can become more accessible. You’re also more likely to experiment with new thought combinations that you might resist if you were fully awake, a process called sleep synthesis.

5 benefits of writing while you sleep:

  1. The times right before and after sleep are rich sources of inspiration not always accessible when we’re wide awake.
  2. Of the four types of measurable brainwaves – alpha, beta, delta and theta – the alpha-theta mix is most connected with ideas and problem solving.
  3. You can teach yourself to produce alpha-theta brainwaves by learning and practising a relaxation technique.
  4. The benefits of these mind states are refreshment, reduced anxiety, creative freedom and better information processing. That’s why when you’re struggling with a writing problem, you may be advised to “sleep on it.”
  5. Keeping a notebook or smart phone by your bedside lets you capture any ideas and thoughts that come to you in alpha-theta meditation. In this state we don’t tend to store memories so you’ll recall having a good idea, but not what it was.

Have you thought of a great idea as you drifted off to sleep, or awoken knowing the answer to a writing problem? I’d love to share your experiences here. The blog is moderated to avoid spam but your comments can appear right away if you click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone. Happy writing!

 

Valerie

 

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Valerie’s latest book, Outback Code, is out now

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First Monday Mentoring for writers – April 1st, no fooling

It’s that time again, the first Monday of the month when I open this blog to questions on anything to do with writing, the writing life and getting published in general. Feel free to ask me anything using the comments option below.

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Seeing that the first Monday of April falls on April Fool’s Day, I started to think of how writers fool ourselves about our writing and our careers. Do any of these sound familiar:

I don’t need to write anything down.
I’ll remember the idea in the morning.

I can hear some of you screaming, “Nooooooooo!” from here. The brainwaves we produce right before we fall asleep are perfect for generating new ideas. Unfortunately, they’re also totally unsuited to storing short-term memories. See the pattern? We’ll have some of our best ideas, but there’s almost no chance we’ll remember them for very long. Keep a pad or recording device on your bedside to capture your inspiration.

I’ll just go online for a few minutes, then start writing.

If you believe this, there’s a really nice bridge across Sydney Harbour I can sell you. Write first, then go play online. Even if you swear by your sainted mother that it’s for research, write first. Leave gaps for stuff you need to look up, and fill them in later. But write first.

I’ll write as soon as I’m inspired

Real writers don’t write when they’re inspired; they get inspired by the act of writing. If you’re not sure what you want to write about, start anyway. Write about not writing. Write about your characters or the ones that you would write about if you had an idea. When you let yourself write rubbish, magic happens. Gradually you start writing non-rubbish, and soon you’re away.

Playing one game of Solitaire
will warm me up to write

That bridge is still for sale. I found it’s perfectly possible to play Solitaire until two in the morning until I zapped every version of the game off all my computers. Just as there’s no such thing as eating “one Pringle” there is no such thing as “one game of Solitaire” (or Bejewelled, or Words with Friends, or whatever is the current time suck)
Writing gets you warmed up for writing.

What’s your personal April Fool’s problem? How do you deal with it?

Valerie
http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Read some reviews of Valerie’s latest book, Birthright at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

Books in my head, inside a writer’s brain

Many years ago a dear friend, Pat Kerry, gave me a poem she’d written called Books in My Head. The last lines have stayed with me because they’re so true –  “books in my head will never get read/ unless I get up and write them.” She was talking about those dreamy times straight after waking, when our heads are full of thoughts and ideas.  Unless we get up and write them down somewhere, these precious words are likely to vanish forever. All we’ll remember is that we had a great idea, but not what it was.  Whether you record your ideas on a laptop, tablet, cellphone or a notebook kept by the bedside – and I recommend you keep something handy for this purpose – doesn’t matter as long as you capture your thoughts. You can edit and develop them later. The main thing is to get them down somewhere.  Our brains aren’t wired to make memories out of the thoughts we have in the time between sleep and waking. That’s when the slower brainwave cycles called alpha and theta waves occur and we’re most likely to have great insights and inspirations. Frustrating when you think it’s also when we’re least able to remember them.

There’s another way of looking at the lines from the poem, too. It’s that wanting to write a book, intending to write one and talking about your wonderful ideas to your friends won’t produce one page of words  unless you actually “get up and write them.” It’s probably why so many people dream of writing a book but the majority never actually do. Writing is hard work. And news flash, it doesn’t get easier with practice. As I’ve found writing 25 nonfiction books and over 50 romance novels, you get better at  putting words down in a readable order and seeing where the work can be improved. But every book is a first book. As one would-be writer asked me, “How do you know when you sit down to write, that you can do it?” The answer is, you don’t. You write to find out IF you can do it this time, with these characters, telling this story. When I sat down to write this first blog, I had no idea how it was going to turn out. All writing is a voyage of discovery. That’s the fun part. And it’s the part which keeps me writing even when the going gets tough. We writers are very lucky, we get paid for doing the very thing that got us into trouble as kids, making things up. Like my next book. And this blog. It’s no coincidence that I chose to write my first post about what’s going on in a writer’s brain. My two great loves are human psychology – what makes us tick, and how we turn books in our heads into worlds for readers to come play in. Whether you’re a reader or a writer or both, I hope you’ll come play here again soon.

Valerie

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