As a writer, I tend to be a ‘pantser’ (“fly by the seat of my pants”) rather than a ‘plotter’ (relying on detailed outlines) when I write. Before participating in last November’s “National Novel Writing” (NaNoWriMo), though, I reversed course and created brief descriptions of a set of scenes ahead of time that I turned to when writing each day’s 1700 word installment.
My writing process each day usually begins with a short period of meditation. Resisting the impulses that strike at my mind—tasks that need to be done, places to go, people to see—helps me to empty my brain, to let the unexpected image or scene make an entrance. I realize the purpose of meditation is not accomplishment but mindfulness and relaxation. Still, I find it to be a useful tool to sometimes generate the unanticipated image that I use in my work.
One morning during NaNoWriMo, I sat down to meditate first. During the meditation, I experienced a peaceful scene of floating over fields of golden wheat, a light blue sky above me dotted with a few fluffy clouds and illuminated by a muted yellow sun. I let that scene carry me along for several minutes, feeling as if I were flying over a serene landscape. I returned to my pantser roots when that scene later made its way into my NaNoWriMo novel. A young woman with a disability that left her unable to walk soars in her imagination over a field where, unbeknownst to her, she accidentally bumps against the back of a young man working in that same field. In that moment, the paths of two of the four main characters—Angelique and Ash—cross for the very first time.
The great writer Pat Conroy once said that he couldn’t wait to get back to writing so he could “find out what [his] characters will do next.” I relate to that and have the same motivation that compels me to write. I find that a few moments of not deliberately imagining but letting my imagination take over allows stories to find their own way into my consciousness. Each day, after a brief period of meditation, I can’t wait to get back to where my mind guides me before I put a single word to page.