Some days I’m a veterinarian, running through diagnostic trees and fine-tuning treatment plans for a variety of diseases and medical conditions. Other days I’m at my computer in front of the page, hashing out strings of words in pursuit of a story that’s playing out in my head, anxious to capture the images in their purest form.
I can’t think of two more disparate ways of having to use my brain. Transitioning between these aspects of myself can be difficult. Context switching is expensive at the same time as it’s necessary. Most writers have jobs or careers outside of writing, and I am no exception.
Tuning into my subconscious in order to pick up a story thread where I’ve left off is essential to productive writing days.
I’m equal parts pragmatist and dreamer, or as I like to think of it, a practical mystic.
Herein lies my dilemma.
To function both as veterinarian and writer, I must embrace both.
My rational brain takes precedence inside the clinic. After a few days away from the page, the much quieter voice of my intuition, or subconscious, is all but drowned out.
It drives me crazy. How can I stay in the same frame of mind as after I’ve freshly written – that near euphoric, selfless state where the world and all concept of time has melted away and I’m living inside the dream world I’ve created in my mind?
Over the past few years, I’ve had to talk myself down from panicking over the focus I lose amidst the constant context switching. My sincerest hope is that what I’ve learned will also help you in the pursuit of your creativity.
- Adopt a meditative practice. For me, yoga has been instrumental in getting a handle on my anxiety. The more frequently I practice, the more resilient I am in handling day-to-day stressors. Yoga also clears away the ‘surface chatter’ in my conscious mind, allowing me to hear the quiet inner voice that speaks when I’m preparing to write.
- Chase silence like it’s your job. Maybe you’re one of those writers that needs background noise in order to create, but if you’re like me and the incessant drone of a nearby leaf blower brings tears of frustration to your eyes, it’s okay. You’re not an alien. You might be an HSP (highly sensitive person), a trait that makes you more aware of subtleties in your environment. Seek the solace you need to do the work you want.
- Recognize the interconnectedness of life by noticing moments of Synchronicity. Some call it coincidence, happenstance, or sheer good luck. I call these moments Synchronicity – a conversation with the Universe so subtle you might miss it if you aren’t paying attention. These can be as simple as getting articles in my email about whatever writing struggle I’m currently facing, or as monumental as having my first published work hit the (proverbial) press on my Dad’s birthday the year after he died. (He was one of my biggest fans and supporters, always cheering me on!)
- Develop an increased tolerance for the unknown. While rationalism demands answers and explanations, mysticism embraces a sense of mystery as part of the greater whole. My veterinary work requires me to unpack diagnoses, deliver prognoses, and develop a working plan for treatment, all of which must be as accurate and precise as possible. Creativity is not a rational pursuit, nor is it linear. Giving yourself permission to play is key to allowing your subconscious room to breathe and grow.
- Psychic shock isn’t a death sentence for your creativity. This is a biggie and one I’ve experienced in spades with the recent loss of my father. I was terrified that in working through my grief, the inner voice I’ve come to know and love would be silenced, shuttered away deep inside me again, similar to a past loss I suffered after which I quit writing for two decades. Thanks to a tremendous support system and more life experience, I’m working to transform my grief into an opportunity for deeper reflection and personal growth.
Well, there you have it. My humble tips for learning how to give my subconscious more love and affection so I can hear all the wonderful things it’s trying to tell me. If you’re a practical mystic like me, drop me a line. Let’s chat! How do you cope with context switching in order to get your writing done?