12 Books in 12 Months, Week 9: How to Keep Your Mind Clear

Hello! Welcome to week 9 of the 12 books in 12 months challenge. I’m super happy to be talking to you again. The last two episodes I wrote and recorded all at once, so it feels like it’s been a while since I spoke to you because, for me, I skipped a week. I’m happy to report a normal 15,000 words for the week, just as scheduled. And I finished my 2nd book of the challenge! The books is called To World’s Above, and it’s the fifth book in my Roots of Creation series, and I’ve already started on the next one, book 6.

And I’ve noticed now for the second time that it becomes a lot harder to write, at least for me, when I finish one book and start right into the other. I think my brain is used to taking a break, maybe celebrating a little. And the fact that I’m going straight into the next one is jarring for it a bit. However, I’m pretty sure this is purely mental, because the same thing happened to me on the last book. At the time I thought I was experiencing burnout. But once I kept writing for a week or so that feeling actually went away. So just a quick tip for those experiencing burnout. Maybe you’re not. I think we have a tendancy to stop working when we start experiencing burnout, like we’re expecting that things will just continue to get worse and we’ll get more tired if we don’t take a break. And in some instances that might be true. But maybe we should power through and we’ll discover that we just hit a rough patch, and weren’t experiencing true burnout.

Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to talk about today, though what I have to say does have to do with the mind. You remember in the last two episodes we talked about Gathering Points as a way of tidying up our schedules and our to-do lists into only a few approved places as a way of keeping our attention from being pulled in many directions. But there’s one gathering point that’s particularly obnoxious and one that we simply can’t get rid of, and that is the human brain. Our brains are constantly thinking, we literally can’t stop them from thinking. And it’s actually pretty easy for our brains to get distracted, without any kind of outside influence causing them to do so. This is why we often start thinking a million thoughts at once when we turn off the light to go to sleep. In the absense of external stimuli, our brain just makes up other things to keep us occupied.

So first of all, this is a good thing. We want our brains to stay stimulated. But how can we learn to control that so that it doesn’t pull us out of our writing or whatever it is we are supposed to do in a given moment. Well, the first step is to use our appointed Gathering Points. Remember the approved gathering points are a physical inbox, a portable inbox, an email inbox, your phone’s voicemail and text, a notepad, and some kind of wild card like a secretary, white board, or project management system.

So hopefully we always have one of those random thoughts of something we need to do, rather than letting it distract us from what we should be doing now, we can just stick it into one of our gathering points. For example, I could write a note and stick it into my physical inbox, or write it down on my phone’s notepad, or even send myself an email. This gets the idea out of our head, and processes it, assuring us that we can think about it later at the appropriately scheduled time, and we can get back to what we are supposed to do in that given moment.

I would also recommend periodically performing a “spring cleaning” of our brain. Think through each area of your life, whether that be writing, editing, outlining, marketing, family time, committments to friends or co-workers, things to do around the house, etc. Mark down on a piece of paper all the things you have to do. Then put that paper in your physical inbox for processing later. We’ll talk more about how to process all of that in the next episode.

While you do this, it’s important to learn to say no to regular impulses. Because chances are you will have a time when your brain says, “Oh! We should go research medieval sheep grazing practices on Wikipedia and then go find a YouTube documentary about armor forging.” And depending on what you do, and what you write, those may be legitimate things that you need to do. So it can be difficult to resist such urges. But I would encourage you not to give into them. Just write them down and put them in one of your Gathering Points, which satisfies that little voice in your head by saying “I hear you, and we will take action eventually.” But what this does is ensure that you stay focused on the task at hand, and that you intentionally give time to all the things that are important, and you don’t end up wasting time on an impulse that may or may not be needed.

Additionally, I would highly encourage any authors or really anyone, to consider trying meditation. The science for meditation is indisputable, and has been shown to be the most benefitial thing you can do for your health, in the amount of time it takes to meditate, usually 3-10 minutes. Contrary to popular belief, meditation is not about clearing your mind, though that can sometimes happen. Usually meditation is about mindfulness, this idea of being aware of your own thoughts, which helps you maintain control over them. When you’re meditating, all you’re doing is sort of watching out for when your thoughts stray, and you can say “I just thought that thought,” before bringing your thoughts back to breathing.

I will probably have a whole video about meditation for authors in the future, because it’s incredible, and not enough people realize just how much it could help them.

Anyway, those are a few important tips to help clear your mind and get stuff done. Now, I know I’ve been talking about this sort of thing for a while. I have one more episode specifically touching on Gathering Points and organization, so look forward to that soon. I hope this has been helpful, and I will see you next week with another video.

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