In this month’s #AskALLi Advanced Self-Publishing Salon, Orna Ross and Joanna Penn discuss the topic of creative flow — from the necessity for creative rest and play, to the value of deep research and immersion, to using social media as a stimulator for ideas and words.
Along the way, they answer some pressing questions for authors:
- What are the best tools and techniques, to stimulate and capture ideas?
- How do you select the right ideas?
- What do you do when the ideas stop flowing?
Tune in for all this and much much more.
The Advanced Self-Publishing salon is brought to you by Specialist Sponsor Ingram Spark. IngramSpark is the award-winning indie publishing platform that offers authors like you a way to publish your book and share it with over 39,000 bookstores and libraries worldwide.
Find more author advice, tips and tools at our self-publishing advice center, https://selfpublishingadvice.org. And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.
Now, go write and publish!
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About the Hosts
Joanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author, as well as writing non-fiction for authors. She is also a professional speaker and entrepreneur, voted as one of The Guardian UK Top 100 creative professionals 2013. She spent 13 years as a business IT consultant in large corporations across the globe before becoming a full-time author-entrepreneur in September 2011. For more information about Joanna, visit her website: http://thecreativepenn.com
Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com
Read the Transcripts of the Podcast on Creative Flow
Joanna Penn: Hello everyone, and welcome to the Alliance of Independent Authors Advanced Self-Publishing Salon with me, Joanna Penn and Orna Ross. Hi Orna.
Orna Ross: Hi, Joanna, and hello everyone. Great to be here again.
Joanna Penn: Yes, here we are the advanced salon, and today we are talking about how to fill the creative well and ensure a constant flow of ideas for your books and your business. We’re really talking, probably more craft today, but all these things are also good about getting ideas in general. We wanted to do a craft-based session, but before that, we are going to do a few updates. So, Orna, tell us about what’s going on with the Alliance.
Monthly Update from ALLi, Orna Ross and Joanna Penn
Orna Ross: Yes. So, we’re just post our biannual conference, online conference. And we’ve always been online, so it wasn’t new for us this year, as it has been for so many people. Really good event around tools and tech for authors. We had some fantastic speakers and some really interesting new technologies. It went down really well. So, that is now available to ALLi members on their free six-month pass, and available to purchase for newcomers.
We are currently working now on our last member magazine of the year, and that’s going to be around the issue of piracy and plagiarism, which our members have completely different, kinds of, sets of opinions about. And we have two different people taking the extremes, if you like, of those positions.
So, Cory Doctorow is going to be our cover boy this time, and he is very much a, sort of, liberate the content people kind of thing, creative commons. And on the opposite end, we have Claire Anker from the Publishers Association. We’re going to run a partnership with the Publishers Association, they have an infringement portal, which, a lot of our members would have used Blasty, when that service was there, but it kind of imploded a couple of years ago now, and we’ve been looking for a replacement. So, the PA has this copyright infringement which, if you want to do your take-down notices, it makes it simple, it makes it automatic. So, we’re going to be working with them on that, and Claire Anker is going to be giving the opposite side and saying why it is so important that we do actually tackle, that we don’t let the content go free and see it as a, sort of, marketing tool, which is what some people would say you could, you can and should do.
So yeah, and then we’d have lots of other features in the member magazine and the usual summary of our podcasts, and everything. So, that’s becoming a nice regular feature now, and we’re getting really good feedback on it. The members really do appreciate having everything brought together in a very accessible format.
Joanna Penn: I’ve started researching my next big AI piece, and one of the big things is, obviously, curation. Because there’s more and more and more and more and more content, curation is actually the most powerful thing now, and the magazine does that, obviously our conference does that, I didn’t speak at it this year, but if people do want to get the recordings, where do they go for that?
Orna Ross: It’s selfpublishingadviceconference.com. It has its own separate website now. It used to be part of the Self-Publishing Advice Center, but actually it got lost there and was causing havoc.
So, yeah, selfpublishingadviceconference.com, and you can still see the lineup of speakers there and some of the things that went on.
Joanna Penn: Fantastic. Well, this last week has been massive edits on Tree of Life, my next thriller, which is now with my proofreader. So, it’s in that final finishing energy moment. But I mean, you know, those last line edits, oh my goodness, talk about blown up head every day! Detailed line edits and word choice and oh, that stuff is great and very satisfying, but extremely hard work. So, I feel like my head has exploded. But yeah, Tree of Life. So, that’s coming soon. I also, in the last month, did a six-day walking pilgrimage, and I met you the night before I set off, from London to Canterbury, following the Becket way, the route of the Canterbury Tales, to the martyrdom site of St. Thomas of Becket. And that is partly why we’re doing the session today on filling the creative well. So, I guess I’ll put that in a bit later on. I feel like at the moment it needs time to settle, so we’ll talk about that in the creative process. What about you in a, sort of, Orna Ross, rather than ALLi?
Orna Ross: I’m probably in the opposite sort of place to you, because being post-conference, and a lot of other activity that kind of tends to happen in our ALLi coming up to the holiday season, I’m actually ready now and available now to step into filling the creative world kind of thing more. I’m also wrapping up some final edits, in exactly that time period you’re talking about where that concentrated work, working with the new editor has been really fantastic, working with Roz Morris on the creative self-publishing book, so that will be ready for launch in January, and also the quarterly and monthly planners, as well. So yeah, very fine, kind of, detailed work, but coming close to an end now. And then I’ll be back into maker mode, which I’m looking forward to.
Creative Flow: The Creative Cycle
Joanna Penn: Well, I think that’s really important, obviously, we’re in November as we record this, and the creative cycle is like a circular process. The year is like a circular process. Our lives are that circular process. So, everything we have is a circle. And I think if people are newer to the creative process, sometimes you can feel like certain things are never ending, but they do end and the next thing kind of comes back. So, maybe we’ll start with that, because part of why we’re doing this so, sort of, starting with what is the creative well and why do we need to fill it? And the reason I wanted to talk about this is because I finished Tree of Life and, when I finish a novel, and I think this is totally right and natural, I feel completely empty. I feel like I can never write another book.
Literally, I feel like, oh my goodness, I can never do that again. I have no ideas, everything’s empty and this year’s been even worse. Obviously, this has been weird in so many ways, but I get my ideas from my travels and this book, Tree of Life, it includes my travels to Portugal, to Amsterdam and some other places.
And now I’m like, oh my goodness, I haven’t got anything left, there’s nothing left in my creative well to write from.
So, I came back to well, how am I going to get some ideas for my next book? And we’re going to come up with some ideas, but what about you? When do you feel that need, like you said, how do you know you’re ready?
Orna Ross: Yeah, I think for me, it does go back to what you were talking about a few minutes ago that I have a much better understanding now. Having been in this business for some years, I have a much better understanding of the rhythm of the year and I don’t tend to go, Oh, I’m just not getting enough time for my creative work, you know, which was a feature in earlier years when you’re building and you’re not quite sure what the rhythm of your year is. A little while ago, I started, well, sometime ago now, I started working and thinking in quarters and that has made a huge difference to me. So, I think more in terms of creative flow, rather than filling a well and, you know, creating the conditions around me that ensure that flow happens. So, for me, it’s very much, and in fact lockdown has probably suited me, not every moment of it by any means, but overall it has kind of pinned me down, made me less busy, and the regular routine, and just settling in and really observing my old processes and trimming the fat, and time for more reflection and stuff like that.
That has been actually, I wouldn’t have chosen these conditions, but in fact, I see they have suited me, this year anyway. So, yeah, I think the community is very much split into those who have found this year to be really, really challenging creatively, and those who have actually found that it has fed their process.
And I think that’s the thing to say about all of this stuff is, it’s really personal. It’s really individual, and it can change depending on the nature of your work as well. So, I never sit still, it’s always something to be observing, but for me, I find it most useful to think about the conditions, and setting up the conditions that allow creativity to rise and to flow, that spontaneously fill the well. If you focus too much on trying to grasp the thing itself, it kind of slips away from you.
Creative Flow: What is the creative well?
Joanna Penn: So, we’ll come to some ways to do it in a sec, but I also wanted to acknowledge Julia Cameron who came up with the concept of the creative well, like, she particularly uses that phrase, although, you know, lots of people talk about it in different ways, but that’s where I first came across it.
For me at the time, I still remember when I said, I could never write a novel, and I put that in my Episode 500 of my podcast, me actually saying that out loud on a podcast episode in 2009, because there was that point, and what I think is, and some people could call that a block, you know, a writing block because I had that, but I think it’s because I hadn’t built the machinery of the creative well, or I now, kind of, understand it as a sort of pipe or a compost bin, because I really like the idea that we’ve got a compost bin in our garden and you have to fill it up with lots of different stuff, and then, obviously, what comes out at the bottom is very good for the soil. Maybe this isn’t the best metaphor, but it’s that composting, the fact is, if I don’t, as you say, put stuff in from these different angles and then I need time for it to compost together and turn into something new.
I think that I had a block early on because I hadn’t understood how to fill the well, and I hadn’t tapped into my curiosity. I hadn’t understood how to let that sit and all of that. So, if you’re listening and you’re feeling, well, I do feel blocked, or I do feel that this book is going nowhere. Or if you’re sitting down to a blank page and nothing comes, then I think this is something that might help you.
Orna Ross: Yeah, I think it’s really important what you’re saying, and I think that there is a narrative that some authors get into where they actually blame themselves and they say, you know, I’m just not creative. But what they haven’t done, what you’re talking about there, what I call setting up the conditions that foster the creative flow.
So, we’re all in innately creative, but what happens is that the conditions in our lives, and particularly in our societies, which are very analytically driven, you know, we’re not encouraged to set up conditions for flow, and most people don’t live that way. And so, you have to, in a sense, it’s the way less traveled. You have to step away from how “ordinary” people talk about life and how they live and what they need and so on. And you have to really look at what your own needs are from a creative perspective. And then be brave enough to put those in place, and sometimes you’ll meet resistance from your family and other kinds of resistances in yourself. So, this isn’t simple stuff. On paper, it sounds simple and can be very simple, but sometimes it can be really quite emotionally complex because there’s a lot of emotional labor in there, as well as just the work of doing the work.
Creative Flow: How can writers actively create ideas for their next book?
Joanna Penn: Okay. So, we’re going to have some steps, some ideas on how to fill the creative well.
So, the first one is, we kind of said, is make time. So, I really think this is important because there is this obsession, I mean, we’re recording this in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, where the obsession is word count, it’s like, whatever it is, 1,667 words a day, it makes 50,000 a month, something like that. And so, the obsession with word count means that a lot of writers, especially new writers, associate writing with word count. And I think that can be quite damaging because if you’re making time to write, for me, that also includes time to research, time to think, time to process, you know, time to go and do all these other things.
And so, it’s like, you know, people ask you that question, how much time do you spend writing a day compared to other things? And I’m like, seriously, if you looked at the amount of time we spend actually writing the words compared to all the other stuff, even the thinking and the creative process, it probably looks quite small.
So, what do you think, when we make time, what does that include?
Orna Ross: Essentially, the creative process has seven different stages, and all of those need to be incorporated in your time. Some of them can be done while you’re doing other things and some need time dedicated. So yeah, looking out the window with your hands behind your head, for a very protracted period, could actually be the best work you’ve done all year.
So, you have these seven stages where, first of all, you just have the intention of what you’re going to put together. Then you have the incubation, which is what you’re talking about, the composting. You have the research and that’s research of, you know, as we normally think of it; we’ll be talking about some of these things in more detail in a minute. Only then you hit the drafting, that’s in the middle, and then you kind of deepen that draft and elaborate and make sure that it’s saying everything you wanted to say. And then, you finally get to the editing, and then the finishing. And each of those stages looks very different, it calls on different skills from you. You need to approach it with a different mindset depending on which stage you’re at, and then it’s not linear, it doesn’t go like stage one, stage two, stage three, stage four. It kind of swirls around in this dance, where you’re moving backwards and forwards through the process all the time. So, the important thing is that you set that time aside, not just for the creative work, but also for creative play and creative rest, because they’re not breaks from the process for a creative, they actually are a process. You have to actually go there. You have to intentionally rest and intentionally play in order to keep that thing moving. And when you do, I mean, with new writers, they’ll often say to me, I have no time, I’ve only got this much time and I have to spend that pushing out words. But actually, productivity goes way up when you actually understand the process and you understand its requirements.
Joanna Penn: Yeah, absolutely. Okay. So, once you’ve made your time, some of the things you can do in that time. So, we’ll start with reading, research, immersion, and, for me, part of the reason, I was thinking actually today when I was walking, because, like many people this year, you’re thinking about your life and reassessing things and I’m like, why do I do this? And one reason is travel, and research is a big part of my life. One of the reasons I am a writer is to research, and it’s funny because I hear people who just don’t get it. They’re like, well, if you just write whatever, you can do all your research online. And I’m like, yeah, that’s not really the point.
So, I definitely find going places is really important. But, equally, I’ve put a quote here from Cormac McCarthy who says, books are made out of books. And I always read, you know, I’ve actually got a big bag behind me of all the books I read for Tree of Life, you know, a lot of environmental books, all non-fiction.
And then also, obviously, I’m constantly reading thrillers, as well. So, I do a lot of books. I also watch documentaries, films, YouTube. I had a particularly great Appalachian snake handling YouTube video that became the beginning of End of Days. So, I really find that I do my research from all kinds of different media, like, I was writing a fight scene for Tree of Life, and I’ve got this great Krav Maga video girl, and all I do is I just watch a couple of seconds, write down what she’s doing, you know, a couple of seconds, write down what she’s doing. So, I just don’t know how people can do books without research. But what about you?
Orna Ross: Yeah, definitely. I now feel and find that, when I’m just watching something just for pleasure, it’s not half as satisfying as when I also have that, this is going to feed something in the book, you know, and that deepens the pleasure for me. And sometimes with a book, if it really wows me, I would find myself reading it twice, you know, once to kind of just enjoy it and then go back and say, why did I love it so much, why was I so wowed by it? At what point was that effect created and, you know, really kind of going in there from a craft perspective. I love doing that as well, breaking things apart. So yeah, I really like to have a fiction project on the go and then be watching all these things around it. Because I write historical fiction, it’s really important in terms of world building as well, to get those; very often watching a movie really gives you the kind of detail that you won’t get from researching text or even writing from the time, but I love the research process in and of itself. So yeah, I’m not as wedded to the travel thing as you are, but I think it’s the same motivation that takes me, you know, the past is a different country, put me in an archive, looking at old documents and I get that; I get probably the buzz that you get from traveling to somewhere exotic and fabulous.
Joanna Penn: Yeah. Because I think, travel as a sort of separate thing and sort of new environment, going to a new place, there are things that you see that you don’t necessarily see on a curated video, because YouTube and media, we know everything is curated, what we’re doing now is pretty real, but we’re still curated versions of ourselves. This is our curated backdrops and all this, you know? But when you go somewhere, you’re going to pick up things, even things like how things smell. I often will end up Googling, what does this place smell like? To try and put that in a book when I’m somewhere I haven’t been. When you are the other, I’m kind of obsessed with the idea of the other, because we see the other in everyone else most of the time, but when we travel, we are the other, and it’s even simple things like trying to find the bathroom in a country that is not your own, or money, or how the people do things or, you know, just different things will make you stop. And if people live there, they don’t find that unusual. So, what I find is in my novels, I’m putting in things about, say Portugal that the Portuguese might not notice because that’s so normal to them. And then story ideas come from what is unusual. So, we went to Amsterdam, and we went there, and I knew I would find a story, but I went to things like the hermetic library of manuscripts, expecting to find the story there and there wasn’t, there was nothing, it was dry to me. And then we went to this Portuguese synagogue in Amsterdam, and I was like, that’s so weird, what is a Portuguese synagogue doing in Amsterdam? And then in their bookstore, there was a book, I put it on Instagram a while ago called, Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean. Exactly. And I was like, Whoa, that’s a story. So, I bought the book and the book, you know, Tree of Life opens in this synagogue in Amsterdam, but that curiosity and this sort of, what is that doing here, that wouldn’t have happened by watching a video about a Portuguese synagogue. So, that’s why I find travel is so important.
Orna Ross: I’m not for a second saying that it isn’t, and I think, just being in a different place is stimulating of ideas. Even if it’s not a place you’re going to, to research the novel, just taking yourself from your ordinary every day and doing something new, doing something different, doing something you haven’t done before, and you don’t have to travel miles to do that. It can be as simple as just visiting a new place or going to a new part of town, or whatever. But all the research shows that a novel experience stimulates the parts of the brain that we associate with creativity. So, just doing it in and of itself is worth doing. And also, I think, when we’re talking about research, it’s worth remembering that research for a writer is also about researching the imagination and the memory.
So, it’s not just about what’s out there, but it’s also about what’s inside and actively having techniques that help you to bring out because, you know, there’s no such thing, nobody creates anything completely new. You’re always creating a sort of a meeting of you and something else that’s already in existence.
But, the more you can bring your own perspective, your own viewpoint, your own true experience at the deep level, then I think the more satisfying it is as a writing experience and as a reading experience for the reader.
Joanna Penn: So, what about revisiting, kind of, old environments that inspire you again and again, because you keep coming back to Ireland, even though you left it.
Orna Ross: Yeah, absolutely. Ireland is just one of my core inspirations. I mean, almost everything I write comes back to Ireland in some way, even if it doesn’t do so obviously. And yeah, I just find that it seems to be a never-ending well, for me, because of so many different aspects to it in the past.
As I said, I’m drawn to times in our history where things went boho and the enormous shackles of life were thrown off. So, the 1890s here in London, the Irish literary revival in the 1910s, San Francisco in the 1970s and eighties; these places are kind of symbolic to me and they keep on coming up in my writing again and again and again.
So, I think we all have those favourite tropes. It’s a bit mysterious, you don’t quite know why they’re there. Who was it said, was it Flannery O’Connor said, everything you need as a writer, you had by the age of seven. So, your childhood experiences are very key to what you’re creating. You may not always understand how it’s feeding in, but it is feeding in, in some way.
What you want to write about, how you want to write about it, how you look at it is very flavored by your childhood. So, I guess that’s where Ireland comes in for me, but I can’t write about it when I’m there, when I actually live there. I write about it when I’m away from it.
Joanna Penn: Yeah. Well, that’s interesting, and I think going into the same place and seeing things from different angles is something that we can all do. So, even if you’re lessening or, obviously, no one can travel, I mean, we’re just going back into lockdown here in the UK and obviously people all around the world are in various levels of lockdown. So, people are not traveling. So, what can you do in that case? Obviously, we’ve talked about doing online, but equally re-visiting the same places again with a different eye, as you say, maybe taking in different historical periods. Or, for example, when I lived in London, I would just go to every exhibition the British museum did, I would go, and it would be like another portal into a different culture.
And I’ve written, I was thinking about it, I’ve written two novels and a short story, from things I’ve been to at the British museum, which is pretty good considering it’s just this one museum, it’s a pretty good museum, but, you know, if you can’t go to a different country, what have you got in your environment where you could go to again and again, but see it from a different perspective. Like, obviously moving to Bath, I ended up writing books about Bath, and it’s a good way to get to know your own town, to sort of figure out what’s going on. And, obviously, nature is something that you can get to know as well. So, I think that’s important. So, I guess we’ve done that. What is next? You carry on.
Orna Ross: Yeah. Brainstorming with other people, I think is, and, you know, thank heavens for zoom, and online, and what we’re doing here and all of that, in the fact that, that goes on and we are still able to do that. So, I think it’s really important to do the things that we’ve been talking about.
So far they are really done in solitude, you need solitude in order to do them and you need quiet and you need space and you need to give yourself the time we were talking about at the top. And another thing to give yourself time for is engagement with other people. And I think the author community, the indie author community, particularly is really fantastic at this.
And at ALLi’s core, to what we do in terms of bringing advisers and experienced authors together with aspiring authors and everybody, kind of the wisdom of the hive mind is exponentially better than what you’re going to come up with on your own. Once you’ve got that stable, sort of, creative place set for yourself, I think it’s important. Otherwise you can, if you’re listening too much to other people, you can kind of be thrown around a bit. So, another thing is modeling people who are doing what you want to do. So, that’s what I was talking about earlier in terms of re-reading a book a second time from a craft perspective, that’s one way to do it, but there are other ways. If you really admire the creativity of somebody else and what you’re seeing coming out from them, you can talk to them about their process, and I mean, I know that’s a reason you do your podcast the way you do it, I think, isn’t it, because it gives you the joy of interviewing people that you admire and like to learn from.
Joanna Penn: Yeah. I mean, I never talk to other people about what’s going on in my novels. I feel like this, for me, is a non-fiction or, you know, maybe the process of craft, but certainly, like, I’ve been going to an AI online conference recently, a podcast one, because I’m learning, and those feed into my non-fiction books. I know lots of people who do interviews for their fiction, but I feel like the process of consuming information in order to produce work is different maybe for fiction and non-fiction.
So yeah, I think that’s important. But definitely interviews or learning from brainstorming with others. Also, trying new things. You talked there about interacting with other people, you’ve changed the way you use social media, haven’t you, in order to try new things?
Orna Ross: Yeah that’s been interesting, and I think this happens for people with their social media every so often, it had started to feel stale. I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing on social. So, I had always kind of used it as a broadcasting tool, really. Here’s what I’ve been doing. Here’s a new blog post. Here’s this, here’s that, and I just kind of got bored with that partly, but also, I wanted to, if I was going to be kind of putting things together for social consumption, it was part of my changing and separating out my own fiction and poetry work my literary work, if you like, from the author guides and ALLi and, you know, the creative planning side of things. So, the fiction and poetry on one side and the non-fiction on the other side. And so, I began with poetry. I started just doing small poems on Instagram and set up a Patreon for poetry and just loved it.
It was a slow burn, but I really loved the fact that I was getting more words, and the fact that I had committed to putting up so many posts a week meant that I got more poems, some good, some not so good. It didn’t matter, there was more production going on.
So, then I thought, okay, how can I do that for fiction? So, I also set up fiction, that is now getting words for a new novel that I know I won’t get to for quite some time. But when I do get to it, just by doing these little posts every couple of days, I will actually have a body of text by the time I get to it, rather than starting off with a blank page.
Because there’s nothing I fear and hate more than the blank page. Once I have something there, I can work with it. So, yeah. And, you know, I’ve just started this relatively recently for fiction and not all that long ago for poetry, and I’m loving my social media again, which was very much part of that. So yeah, I definitely think shaking up our process is another way to invite novelty in, and if something’s feeling stale, we should drop it or change it.
Joanna Penn: That’s a good idea, and I guess, finding ways for that serendipity to happen when we’re not out and about, like we were just saying before we started recording, about how we’re looking forward to going to in-person conferences once more, which is hilarious because we both started to moan about it, never again. And I say that, maybe in a couple of years we’ll be moaning about it again, but it’s like, there’s serendipity that happens. Like I mentioned, that book I found in that bookstore, the same at conferences or when you’re out and about, things happen out in the world, and what you’re doing with social media is a good way to shake that up. I need to do that. It’s like a spin button, random generator of social media, which is good.
But let’s get into then. So, these are lots of ways we’ve kind of put all this stuff in, through various different things, podcasts and audio books and books and all the things. What happens now? How do we then do that composting? Or that flow time?
Creative Flow: What to do once your creative well is full?
Obviously, the first thing, I think, for me, so just talking about coming back from this pilgrimage, I’ve got half a journal full of notes, I’ve got about 600 photos, and I do not even want to look at it. I feel like, it was two weeks ago now, and I don’t know when I’m going to look at it, but I’m not ready to. So, I’m just letting that sit because, when I’m ready to look at it again, I trust and know that when I look at it, things will emerge from my notes that I wouldn’t notice right now because I’m still too close to it, and I just need that time, that waiting time and the time away and the alone time. So, what do you think, what are the next steps?
Orna Ross: Yeah, so important. And you know that now, because you’re an experienced author, you just instinctively know what you need, and you can trust it because you felt this way before.
And you know, it doesn’t mean, oh my God, I’m not going to be able to do the novel after all of that pilgrimage stuff. It actually means no, it’s incubation time, I’ve got to stick it in the back brain and let it do its work. And I think, first of all, acknowledging that the subconscious is so important in the creation process.
And again, what we were talking about at the beginning, to labor the point, because it is so important, giving yourself the time and the solitude. So, ample alone time is really important for a creative, and alone time means devices switched off, and I think that’s becoming harder and harder to do. So many creators talk about having their best ideas in the shower, when they’re driving, or whatever. And that is simply because, when you’re doing those kinds of low-level, on auto pilot, you know, not really there, activities, you go into a semi-meditative state. So, you can, as a creative, help yourself by actually actively meditating and choosing to do that. And there are some forms of meditation that are particularly good for very active, you know, febrile kind of creative minds that don’t want to stop chewing on the stuff.
So, planning times of solitude outside of what’s in your diary, consciously and intentionally planning them at level of the day, so that there are some hours built in for that at the level of the week, so that you have maybe an afternoon where you take a, what I call a create date, away from everything, where you do some active, intentional sort of playful activity.
And across the year, you know, a period of retreat or something where you, you know, one of your trips or whatever, where you step away from the day and you give yourself time to be alone and you give yourself time to be quiet and then it kind of works by itself. That’s all you need to do.
Joanna Penn: And I think, you know, I certainly do a lot of journaling, like you say, the analog stuff, but I’m not someone who sits and meditates, I walk, but I do find that a longer walks, anything pretty much over about 90 minutes, but, you know, especially when it starts getting longer, like 20K, which is, kind of, four hours, and then longer, that walking is a kind of meditation for me. And that’s when I get a lot of ideas, lots and lots of ideas. And so, I’ll always have my phone then when I’m walking and I often just dictate into it now, just the one-liner, something I’m thinking about, and then when I get back, that’s actually how I did it on that walking, I just do notes all day, and then when I got to the hotel, I would write up all my little notes. And so, that walking is kind of similar to the meditation, but as you say, you almost need to look away, it’s that in the corner of your eye thing, and then it will emerge. Actually, it’s something I have on my wall here, trust emergence, that I’ve had on my wall for years. I can’t remember who said it now.
Orna Ross: Yes, it’s a great one. It’s a great one. Trust is so much part of the process, letting go. We’re all so trained to control, it can be really hard to just let go and let things do, especially at the beginning, when you don’t quite know what you’re doing and everything feels so nebulous and uncertain, I think. Yeah, trust emergence. That’s great.
Joanna Penn: Well, then we hope you found this useful and, wherever you are in your career, there are always going to be times, like this year has been difficult for many people, if you’re someone who is struggling, it may be that you can fill your creative well in some other ways, and get around the lockdown in some mental fashion, or something.
But we hope we’ve given you lots of ideas.
What’s coming up next month?
So, Orna, as we finish up, is there anything you want to share about what’s going on with ALLi this month?
Orna Ross: No, nothing beyond, watch out for your member magazine when it comes, we’re working on some new short guides, which we’ll have for our members again shortly. But yeah, no big events, nothing. Just our weekly podcast. Tune in on Friday for the actual podcast of this live stream where the show notes will be and the transcript and all of that, as every Friday, 1:00 PM.
Joanna Penn: Right. Well, we will be back next month. We’ve got a cracker for you in the Christmas season, which will be, lessons learned, or something like this, from author setbacks, failures and mistakes.
Yes, Orna and I are going to share years’ worth of mistakes and issues we’ve had, and failures, and when things went wrong, and setbacks, in the hope that we can share them with you so that you, well, you’ll never avoid them all, we all make mistakes, but we feel like this is a good way to end the year with, you know, how we can reframe those difficult times and still come out on top.
So, that will be next month. So, I guess that’s it for this evening.
Orna Ross: Happy writing and publishing everybody until we see you next time. Bye.