4 Tips for Writers Trying to Heal Themselves or Create For Others

Dawn Bevier

Emotion and imagination need a little prodding at times

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In Sarah Rhea Warner’s article entitled “We Don’t Need You,” she discusses the reasons writers are drawn to the creative process. Maybe her words echo your own paradoxical pull towards this artistic endeavor — I know they do for me.

She states things such as “writing is freedom — and prison” and “writing is identity and disguise.”

In these words, she hits upon two truths for most writers.

  1. "We write to open unlocked doors in our hearts, to 'get the gunk out,' to open the wounds of our heart and clear out the pus and pain and infection of a cruel world."

2. "We write to escape ourselves, to ironically leave those wounds far behind, hoping that another world we have created through written language will take us far away from our own dreary existence or aching heart."

I write for both of these reasons, and when the mood is just right, magic lies in the words that spring forth.

But in order to call forth this magic, we must erase the distractive features of our own reality and close the doors to the cacophony of the outside world.

But how do you do this as a writer?

How do you create an environment that allows you to either enter the painful sites of your psyche and do “reconstructive surgery” or escape your psyche to create words where new people take life and new worlds form themselves on the page or screen?

It’s all about the senses.

Turn down the lights

You are, after all, getting ready to be intimate. With your heart. With your emotions. Or with your imagination. And this date needs “mood lighting.”

In an article by Fast Company entitled “Using Your 5 Senses to Jump-Start the Creative Process,” it cites a 2013 study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology which relays that “ dim lighting can help creative performance while ‘darkness elicits a feeling of being free from constraints and triggers a risky, explorative processing style.’ ”

Maybe darkness whispers to our psyche that its seductive lullabies have teased the judging eyes of others into sleep and we are finally free of their forces.

Maybe it promises that our own inhibitive voices are falling likewise under its hypnotic spell.

Regardless, it is a powerful conductor of the subconscious, and writers should use its powers to its fullest for both revelatory writing, memoir writing, and even fantastical writing that is so essential to fiction and poetry composition.

Burn a candle

There has always been spiritualism and mysticism associated with fire and the lighting of candles.

Since the beginnings of time, it has been intertwined in religious services and other events of importance. Perhaps this is due to the universal symbolic properties of fire.

For example in BBC’s article entitled “Worship” it states that, in one of the oldest religions still in practice, Zoroastrianism embraces the idea that fire represents “God’s light or wisdom.” They mention that “fire is the supreme symbol of purity” and even that “prayers are said facing the sun, fire, or other source of light.”

Its long history may speak to why the essence of a lit candle is so emotionally charged.

The Guardian’s article entitled “The timeless wonder of candlelight, a glimmer of love in our dark world” discusses the power and prevalence of candlelight in some of the world’s most provocative paintings. The article states the universal appeal of candlelight saying that “the apparently bodiless being of a candle flame, passing constantly into nothingness, warms the faces that it shines on.”

They go on to explain that “when candles are burning we feel better about the world. They light the soul.”

It’s true.

And when in a room dimly lit by candles, the experience can become otherworldly and can open the portals to insight, truth, and creativity.

This is especially accurate when the candle is scented. Or when one uses both candles and aromatherapy in the form of essential oils.

Aromatherapy

Professional Artists Magazine’s article “Boost Creativity With Essential Oils” discusses the power of smell to aid inspiration and writes that the great artist Leonardo Da Vinci used neroli oil to conjure the creative muses.

They also state that inhaling scents such as lavender, frankincense, eucalyptus, and other scents works by affecting the brain’s limbic system through the “olfactory bulb at the top of the nose.” They purport that this system can “trigger an emotional shift” that may aid relaxation and creativity. For a complete list of their recommended oils and their specific purposes, read the whole list of oils in the article.

Fire up the Music…or Maybe Not?

I’m going solo on this one.

Why?

Most research actually states that music may impair your creativity.

For example, Time’s article entitled “Does Listening to Music Stimulate Creative Thinking, or Stifle it?” cites a UK study originally published in Applied Cognitive Psychology in which participants were tasked with puzzles to complete either while in silence or when listening to background music. The researchers found that “people’s scores on average fell on the creativity test” when they were listening to music.

There is a caveat, however.

The article above and several other research based-studies found that listening to happy music may encourage what is known as “divergent thinking,” a type of cognitive process critical to creativity.

Science Daily summarizes a study originally published in the journal PLOS ONE in which study participants were charged with completing cognitive tasks that required creative thinking. The groups each listened to a varied selection of music or worked in silence. The study found that “listening to happy music, which they define as classical music that is positive valence and high in arousal, facilitates more divergent creative thinking compared to silence.”

But research is a law of averages and statistics and, while valid, does not necessarily apply to all individuals.

For me, I need soulful music to travel to those places deep and locked inside of myself. And the music is not of a happy nature.

Most recently, I delved into My Dear Melancholy by The Weekend. I especially recommend this album if you need a soul to sing your heart’s saddest feelings.

But this is just the music that moves me.

You know the music, the voices, the instruments that transport you to the locked doors of your heart or imagination and stand there urging you to enter and explore.

The bottom line:

Writing is a most rewarding soulmate but it can be a reluctant partner at times. Give it the gentle caresses it needs to make it love you back. Whether you are seeking to probe your emotions or create a new universe for others to enter and enjoy, a few tweaks in your writing atmosphere can make all the difference.

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Sanford, NC
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