I received this question this morning and thought the answer might be useful to other people, too.

First off I want to say excellent blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing. I have had a difficult time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out. I do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or hints? Many thanks!

Your question is a good one. I’ll answer by starting from a different part of my life. While being a novelist, I am also a consultant in change management. That involves formal research work for which I am well-qualified. (I will talk more about that on my next blog, because the formal research background was actually a barrier to writing fiction, which I am still dealing with. But back to the question.) When I was studying at university doing a Ph.D, I complained to my supervisor that I seemed to spend more time walking in the backyard of my house thinking than I did writing my thesis. He told me, “walking and thinking is part of your process of writing your thesis. It helps clarify and identify themes and ideas. Some people do it differently. I always did it by sitting in front of my computer and writing random thoughts about a topic as they came into my head. I wrote a lot of rubbish but I also wrote a few valuable gems. You are grounding (centering) yourself by walking and thinking.”

Perhaps you could think about a “difficult time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out” in the same way: that it’s part of the process and not a waste of time. You could see it as centering yourself and perhaps try what my supervisor said as well: sit and write random thoughts until you feel focussed, save them, and get on with writing. Another analogy is with sport. All athletes warm up before undertaking a sprint or a high jump or a triple jump. Perhaps try to see your activity in the same way. Hope that helps.