Dear Dr. Ding: How Do I Clear My Mind?

First of all I want to say superb blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing. I have had trouble clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out.

I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually wasted simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or hints?


Dear Person:

I took your question from a comments section, and wasn’t sure how to address you. I was going to call you Quilts McGee but decided that sounded corny! Anyway, thanks! I love getting reader and viewer mail.

Here at the Dingatorium, the answer to your question varies a lot, according to my mood, energy level, and whether or not my pants are bunchy. Bunchy pants are right out, I tell you. Don’t even try it.

I’m all-too-familiar with your dilemma, that of the blank page.

Those first 10-15 minutes can be mined for treasure that may not be obvious until later. What I have to literally force myself to do at times is to just write a bunch of gobbledegük, a page of literal nonsense, until something useful comes out. It’s akin to priming a pump; at first all that comes out is dust and sand, then silt, and then finally clear, drinkable water. It’s a bit like stretching or doing warmups before a sportsballing or whatever Curves is or a basketball game.

Some days it feels like it’s all sand. And those days really suck. But the nifty part about it is that you’ve still written something. The author Julia Cameron has a similar exercise called Morning Pages, where you write your stream of consciousness into three handwritten pages each and every morning like asap after you get up. And this works for a lot of people.

Dr. Ding, however, is not a morning person. Dr. Ding not even a functional, recognizable human being until at least two cups of coffee, a shower, the application of triple-scented freesia lotion, some sage burning, at least five solid minutes of dog snuggles, a buncha invocations to higher beings, a Lesser Banishing Ritual to get rid of Donald Trump’s nasty ass, a brief inspection and watering of my sorry It’s A Charlie Brown Christmas-lookin garden, and something to eat. Fact.

I don’t do mentally strenuous tasks first thing in the morning – that’s just madness. I wait until I’m fully powered up, that’s what works for me, and therefore my best writing time is usually late afternoon to early evening.

Dr. Ding hand wrote a megaton of progress and chart notes over the last 25 years of clinical practice, and can no longer read her own handwriting, so it’s very little handwritten stuff for me. Fact.

Therefore, I spew out via MacBook whatever effluvia float to the topmost layer of my mind first. Gotta prime the pump in order to get things going. I just start typing.

That said, some days I do re-read what I wrote the day before, but I’ve found if I do that too much, I end up kinda getting stuck in these endless editing loops and not really generating much else. Turd polishing, basically. For me it’s usually an avoidance mechanism. So sometimes if I catch myself doing too much of this, I’ll just get to that next blank spot and write nonsense until my conscious mind gets out of the way.

This is the last part; if I can remember to zone out while I’m writing the gunk out of the system, I think I produce my best writing…when my subconscious mind is free to just roll because the conscious mind tends to get in the way. Whether it’s fiction or blog posts or short eBooks or whatevah, staying in that kind of relaxed, neutral cognitive and energetic space really helps.

Those are the main things: just start writing, avoid editing, relax into a near-trance state.

I hope you enjoy your writing and that you let me know what you’ve written!


Dr. Ding

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