Joy in the Time of COVID-19

I did not intend to use the COVID-19 label in my post title, because you have heard enough about the virus without my adding it to headlines. Yet this was the catchiest title I could come up with today. 

One item Bob and I have on our daily calendar is our time for morning devotional and prayers. In recent days, we’ve been following Henri Nouwen. The daily meditation is waiting in our inbox before we get up and out of bed. It’s been a good day starter for us.

Yesterday’s meditation seemed chosen specifically for this time of crisis for all of us. As we read it, I thought of all the things that are happening around us. What could we possibly find joy in right now? My recovery, the birth of our new great-granddaughter Aurora, a friend who suffered a traumatic skiing accident a week ago and is recovering, and the joy of being together in this time of stress and tension. It made us more aware of what joy really is. I thought perhaps it might help someone else if I shared it here:

Be Surprised by Joy

 
Learn the discipline of being surprised not by suffering but by joy. As we grow old . . . there is suffering ahead of us, immense suffering, a suffering that will continue to tempt us to think that we have chosen the wrong road. . . . But don’t be surprised by pain. Be surprised by joy, be surprised by the little flower that shows its beauty in the midst of a barren desert, and be surprised by the immense healing power that keeps bursting forth like springs of fresh water from the depth of our pain.

 

For more information on Henri Nouwen, his writings and work, click here.

Featured image attribution: nicko mcluff from Pixabay

One Word in 2017: Listen

Last week I wrote about three words–past, now, and future— to begin the year 2017. Today I want to share my One Word for 2017–listen.

The word “listen” doesn’t reflect excitement or adventure ahead. So why would someone pick it as their one word for an entire year?

Give a “listen” and find out…

Listening is important in all we do.

Dictionary.com defines listen as follows:

  • to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing; give ear
  • to pay attention; heed; obey.
  • to wait attentively for sound.

The word “attend” appears in each of the above definitions in some for or another. Perhaps the word implies the importance of learning because if we pay attention we generally pick up more instruction. Using the ear to give attention to someone or something implies giving our full attention.

WHY THEN would a writer choose the word “Listen?”

Perhaps to learn from others the grander points in the world of writing. Or perhaps the writer is hoping to pick up tips on things essential to publishing a book.

It seems it would be obvious that a writer may also be looking for ways to make his or her name known, and he or she listens for the names of those writers from whom to learn in the classroom, via podcast or video, or some other means.

PERHAPS THE WRITER LOOKS FOR DEEPER MOTIVATION

The hardest thing I try to do is listen to my own heart and mind. Those two places are where I believe everything I feel about my writing is stored. Storage places I can access in the quiet to listen to my personal dreams and desires about writing.

Do you find it hard to listen to your heart and mind as it relates to your writing life?

HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT LISTENING TO YOUR HEART’S DREAMS?

Meditation comes close to what I believe is listening to our own thoughts and feelings, much like meditation can bring a person into communication with a higher power. Personally, I have always found it difficult to settle myself into a meditative state of mind. I was raised by a mother who believed we had to be busy 24/7. Settling into a meditative state takes great effort on my part.

The choice of the word “listen” forces me to practice a meditative state of mind in order to hear those things I hold dear about my writing life. If I don’t assume quietness, I will not hear the thoughts and dreams encouraging me to move forward in my writing practice.

In a few days, I will be sharing a post in which I pose a question to all of you about your own writing life. This is a question I have struggled with in 2016, and a question I have come close to answering this question in a way that may surprise you.

These are the kinds of questions I believe we need to spend some time reflecting on early each year to get our writing lives in order. This meditative state will not only help us focus on our dreams, but also on our writing.

Will Exercise and Breaks Enhance Your Creativity?

Via Pixabay
Via Pixabay

Winter has now deposited her snow-white goodness from coast to coast. Some of us are snowed in for the first time this season. Others have been snowed in so long they must feel like Eskimos.

Couple the winter weather doldrums with writing most of the day, and what do you have?

Likely, a grumpy writer with aches and pains and stiff joints.

We’ve all heard the quotes, and we try to adhere to good advice given. But let’s take a moment and reflect on what Mary Heaton Vorse had to say about writing:

The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.

One should ask though if Vorse intended for the seat of your pants to maintain contact with the chair for extended periods of time.

How to remedy the bodily damage we’re doing while sitting all day?

Exercise! And if given an opportunity, physical exercise just might enhance creativity.

Here are some tips for getting out of the chair and improving your creativity at the same time:

  • Get up out of that chair and go take a walk. Just 15-20 minutes, a walk around the block will not only relieve your joints and spine but also feed your brain with some much-needed oxygen via fresh air. Or if you have a gym membership, put it to good use and head there three or four times a week.
  • Play a musical instrument? Take a few minutes during the day to enjoy that creative experience. Perhaps the music you select will feed that part of your brain searching for artistic phrasing in your written work.
  • Meditation won’t exercise your body but it is calming and relieves the stresses that build in our bodies as we sit in front of a desk and computer. And the mind-clearing benefits of meditation will only enhance your writing.
  • Build a rhythm into your writing life so that you have some time off during the week, when everything writing disengages. Try to keep your life on normal footing, especially if you have a family. Meet a friend for coffee, catch up with a neighbor over the fence, call your kids and grandkids. This sounds like a no-brainer but it is essential to keep yourself healthy, inspired, and in touch with others.
  • Daily inspiration will keep you feeling good about yourself and your writing. Listen to a TED talk you’ve wanted to hear, maybe you missed the last NAMW conference and the audio file is waiting on your desktop, or perhaps there is an audio book you listen to. Find a way to be inspired by others.
  • Lastly, do something that matters. Whether it’s writing a blog post on something that matters to writers, or volunteering at the local homeless shelter, or babysitting grandkids so the kids can have a date night — do something that matters. You feel great afterwards!
Via Google Images
Via Google Images

The current weather situation in many parts of our country doesn’t entice one to go outdoors, but many of these suggestions don’t need the outdoors for exercise. But keep in mind that a brief step outside to get the mail or to fill the bird feeder will offer an intake of fresh air that can’t be beat for brightening up those brain cells for the next few hours of writing.

Q4U: What do you do to keep physically and mentally fit when writing? I’d love if you’d share below so that we can benefit one another with our ideas and suggestions.