Sunday, May 3, 2009

Ohm'ing Your Way To "The End"

I have a thing for tools. No, not that creepy guy in the office with the bad comb-over who refers to you as “Babe” every time he speaks to you. I’m talking about everything from immersion blenders to chainsaws…anything you can get in a gadget store, a home improvement store or even places like Barnes & Noble or Borders Books.

One evening, while browsing through the CD’s at the local Borders, I found an intriguing title. Meditative Ocean. It consists of only one track and there are no lyrics or music—it’s simply sound. The sound of ocean waves.

Now, you’re wondering how this fits in with the title of this blog… I’m sure we’ve all heard fellow writers talk about being In The Zone. A place where the writing flows like water from an artesian well and before they know it, they’ve written a dozen pages of brilliant prose. And I’m certain we’ve all had the experience of driving and suddenly notice that we’ve gone five or ten miles and not realized it. When these things happen, the brain is in a Theta state. Relaxed, but alert enough to keep typing coherent sentences and to drive safely.

Often, writers and other creative types have said they get their best ideas when they’re driving, or mopping the floor, or engaged in some other “mindless” task. The theta state is where ideas, great and small, reside, just waiting to be brought to the surface and acted upon. The trouble is, that because of the constant bombardment of our senses during the day, these ideas are fleeting and ephemeral as soap bubbles. They will vaporize unless we either write them down immediately or record them via a handheld voice recorder. No amount of telling ourselves we’ll remember will keep those images or ideas from slipping away forever.

But back to my CD. Embedded within the relaxing sound of ocean waves crashing into rocks are those very same Theta waves pulsating through the brain when it’s in a relaxed, yet alert state.

By playing this CD on my MP3 player, with headphones, as I sit quietly in a recliner, I find I can relax enough to allow my mind to get into the task of writing. The very act of being still and listening to my inner muse releases me from the stresses of my job and allows my creativity to flow freely and uncensored.
This meditation has helped me solve plot problems that have plagued me, allowed me to see points of conflict between my hero and heroine I hadn’t recognized previously and has introduced me to new and interesting characters who will help enrich my story.

In the weeks since I’ve begun this creative meditation, I’ve also discovered there are other CD’s out there, some with nature sounds, some with music, but all have one thing in common; they’re embedded with Theta waves and all have been specifically designed for meditation purposes and for individuals who are seeking ways to enhance their creative process.

Now, what I want to know is: have any of you out there used this same technique? What were your results? What other methods do you use to reduce stress and silence your inner critic/censor?


Stephanie J said...

Great post! I've considered meditation (even have a few books on it) but I'd never thought about it as it relates to the creative process. Your post is like a light going on over my head! Today I had an entire day to dedicate to writing and the words weren't flowing. I was distracted by everything and this sort of creative meditation would have been extremely helpful.

Anna Steffl said...

Wow, I never considered this. Great info. I do get my ideas when I walk or drive, but it would be so great not to be giving birth on asphalt I'm definitely going to try one of these CDs.

tatt3r said...

I use a cd "Increase Creativity" which is embedded with theta waves. I found it works well for generating ideas, and combine it with a guided meditation for Creative Writing. That one lets me silence my editor and lets the words flow through me to the paper. Kinda spooky, but I see amazing results.

Sandy Elzie said...

I don't use CDs to meditate...I just close my eyes and pray for inspiration and weords.

I spon ideas all the time, driving, shopping, (see my last blog entry last week about B/A and Wal-Mart) or visiting with friends.

One thing I do like though is to have soft music just playing in the background if the house is too quiet. I write best in a cozy atmosphere.

Never tried the ocean waves type things, although someone gave me one for my birthday a couple years ago and I might just give it a try.
(Personally, I guess I just would rather BE there than listen to it)
Great post. Thanks! Sandy

Marilyn Baron said...

Meditative Ocean! I like the sound of that. Sounds like a great Mother's Day present. I'm going to try some of those Theta waves. I love the ocean and I often write while staring at the ocean but since Atlanta doesn't have an ocean, this will have to do the trick.

I've often listened to music in the period of the book I'm working on but never tried the kind of CD you're talking about.

So thanks for that and for a great post.

Marilyn Baron

Chicki said...

I have at least twenty CDs at Dollar Tree that are produced by Body & Soul and Allegro Corp. Some of the titles are "Soothing Harp," "Candlelight Piano," "Mozart by the Sea."

If you have a Dollar Tree store near you, check them out. They're peaceful and perfect for writing.

Sally Kilpatrick said...


What a great idea! I have been known to use movie soundtracks with heavy orchestral arrangements or jazz without words, but I've never tried a meditative CD. I'll have to try that.

For anyone interested, here are some of my favorite soundtracks to write to: Amadeus, The Last of the Mohicans, and The Princess Bride. I'm also partial to Harry Connick, Jr.'s Occasion and Lofty's Roach Souffle which are both instrumental. Oh, and I also have Pachebel's Canon with ocean sounds, but that one lulls me into sleepiness. : )

Tammy Schubert said...

What a great idea. I'm going to have to give mediation CDs a try.

Cyrano said...

Listening to a CD of meditative sounds has never even crossed my mind. I can't wait to run out and buy one. Maybe some relaxing Theta waves will help me get to, "The End!"
Thanks so much for this post Cindi.
Have a meditative, relaxing day,

J Perry Stone said...

Okay, Cinthia. You know me and you KNOW how rah rah I am about meditation.

I think the purest, most brilliant creative core of ourselves is generally obscured with our daily mental noise--noise that includes lists of what we have to get done that day, the insidious sniping of our internal critic and even petty jealousies that a colleague may be getting writing accolades we think we deserve as well.

Meditation sweeps that all away. It does.

I don't have an ocean CD, but I do have a guided meditation CD that is Buddhist in nature. Lately, however, I've been letting life get in the way, but you've just inspired me to get back to it. Not only does it make me more patient with those around me, it makes me more certain of my creativity.

Terrific post (and I laughed out loud at the first paragraph ;)


The Writers Canvas said...

Great post! If I'm just trying to relax my mind from the chaos of the day to reach that place where I can begin to write, then music with old flutes, recorders, wind whispering works for me. Almost like Native American music.

If I'm writing as I listen to music (which does work for me; some people prefer writing in silence but the music works well for me) then 'prepping' my mind to get into the muse is done by a set of rituals, along w/listening to the right music that stimulates my mind into creativity.

It's hard to determine what music works. When I start writing, I put the ipod on shuffle and then begin putting those songs that inspire into a playlist. That becomes the playlist for the book, and usually 1-2 songs give me that extra push.

As far as rituals before writing go, I wrote a post on it on my blog - check it out! Thanks!


CiCi Barnes said...

This sounds wonderful. You know how I am about the ocean. I have a sound machine by my bed. I play the ocean waves crashing to the shore and it lulls me to sleep peacefully.

But I've never heard of Theta waves. I think I need to try this.

I often play instrumental music while I write, so this sounds like something I could use.

Thanks, Cinthia for a great suggestion.


Tami Brothers said...

You guys are great!!! I never even thought about meditation or Theta waves. I'm all for anything that will help me focus the speedway of thoughts using my brain as a racetrack. I swear it is very hard to focus on one thing sometimes...

I can totally relate to the driving and realizing 50 miles have gone by and I didn't even blink. My husband swears I'm crazy and believes I must be falling asleep. I've often worried about it myself. But this explanation makes a ton of sense. I plan to point this out to him the first chance I get...

I will definitely have to give these CD's a try.


Cinthia Hamer said...

Hey, Everyone...sorry I didn't respond earlier. I actually posted this last night, as I had to leave for work early this morning, then got home just in time to make dinner for hubby. I finally have a moment to myself.

Glad you all enjoyed the post and hope you get some enlightenment out of it. :)

I've tried writing with music in the background and for me, it's distracting. I get caught up in the music, start humming or singing along, and whatever it was I was thinking just flits right out the window.

Tatt3r, I'm looking into a program similar to the one you described. Glad it's helped you silence that editor. If she's like mine, she never shuts up. LOL!

JPerry...thanks for the title suggestion! LYG

Maxine Davis said...

Cinthia, Loved your post! I have listened to music while writing. I end up laughing or crying if it is from a movie I've seen. The others, well if the music had words, I end up singing and making up the lines I don't know. I'll try the ocean and see if I tend to stand as if I'm on a surf board or can relax. Got to find something. I took today to write - did about a paragraph. I must do better under pressure.

Carol Burnside said...

Cinthia, I've used such CD's in the past (Read: Before I moved). Thanks for reminding me. I need to find mine and use them!

I've got Ocean Sounds, Rain Forest (which includes bird, frog sounds and rain) and my favorite, Gentle Rain. In it you can hear the rain gain intensity, then drop off until it's dripping from the eaves.

Carol Burnside said...

Oops! Forgot to say that I can do instrumental music, but music with words just distracts me.

Currently, I have a table top water fountain that helps to kill other noises. I find I concentrate on it rather than the rest. :)

Linsey Lanier said...

Interesting post, Cinthia. "Theta" must be my middle name. I often become unaware of where I am while driving. I always seem to get to my destination . . . though there have been a few times I've had to call my husband and ask "Where am I?"

Thanks for this term. "Theta state" sounds so much better than "spacey," LOL.

I've heard of those CDs, but was a little fearful of trying them. Have you noticed any adverse affects? No sudden urges to invest in the stock market or buy a particular product?


Dianna Love said...

HI all -
I've been without internet most of the past week - not conducive to relaxing. "g"

This post is very timely. I'm not known for slowing down and relaxing but I'm feeling the need to let my mind float a little. I'm on a shuttle from San Fran to Monterey where I'm teaching a retreat this weekend, but think I'm going to find an hour to sit by the water and listen to the ocean. I kept thinking that would be a good idea and believe your post is an omen.

I wish Kelly Stone was on today. She's got a great book coming out in Sept with relaxation tapes (yes, I do plan to try them) that's all about getting your mind to the point you can access all the information waiting to be used.

thanks for the nudge to do this or I might have put it off another couple months. I'll be back this week (now that the internet gods have allowed me access again) and let you know how it works out.

Kelly L Stone said...

Hi, this is a great post. My tools are solitude and being near water to help me get into the "zone." The more stressed I am, the harder it is to get there. I also try to write first thing in the morning, before dawn, when my brain is quiet (most of the time, ha ha) and the world is quiet. That also helps.

Thanks for sharing your ideas!

Darcy Crowder said...

Great advice, Cinthia. I've never tried relaxing tapes or mediation. I usually try to sit quietly, but my thoughts are always fighting for attention -- maybe this will keep them at bay long enough to get more creative.

I do have a sound-track for every book, but I usually listen to it when I'm going to be brainstorming because they get me in the story mood, but I can't listen while writing because the lyrics are too distracting.


Nicki Salcedo said...

Cinthia, great post. I meditate as I drive. I don't listen to music or anything, so it is just me and my thoughts. I also don't mind traffic usually, because it means more time to ponder! Either that or my mediation makes me immune to Atlanta gridlock. I'm going to focus on your comments and see what happens to my writing this week.


Debbie Kaufman said...

Sorry I'm so late in jumping in! I have a "harp-guitar CD" that a friend gave me that I use sometimes when I'm having trouble focusing.

I went to a local walking track the other day. It helped me fixed my plot problem by walking and thinking.

Mary Marvella said...

Hmmm, soothing music, sitting still, and meditation put me to sleep. Once I also tied a tablespoon of honey for energy. Best nap I ever had. I must not be doing it right! I need Cinthia to show me how.