Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Hushing and Holding - Heather Dyer

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I’ve been reading a book called Fearless Creating: a step-by-stepguide to starting and completing your work of art, by Eric Maisel. Like Dorothea Brande’s classic book Becoming a Writer, this is less a ‘craft’ guidebook, and more a ‘process’ guidebook. It’s the sort of book that describes the creative mind set and shows you how to develop it.

One of the exercises that Maisel says is the most important in the whole book is the ability to ‘hush’ your mind. ‘Hushing’ says Maisel, ‘is what we do when we go into a museum and sit in front of one painting for fifteen minutes.’ Hushing is a ‘quieting and an opening’ – and there is no creative life without this ability to hush.

Hushing sounds a lot like the open, receptive state of mind that is associated with ‘right-brain’ awareness, and is also the state of ‘choiceless awareness’ that meditation aspires to. When the mind is quiet and receptive – and not busy with mental chatter – ideas can rise to the surface.
Some writers achieve this state of mind by walking, swimming, doing yoga or washing the dishes. Others know it when they wake up in the middle of the night to write something in the notepad beside their bed. Maisel suggests that it’s only when the conscious, busy, ‘thinking’ mind has grown quiet that insights and ideas can surface.
Maisel also explains that ‘hushing’ needs to be practiced in conjunction with ‘holding’, if any real work is to be done. 'Holding' is the ability to carry an idea for a book or a painting (or any other project )loosely in the back of your mind as you go about your day. By holding the project in the periphery of your vision you allow the ideas and stimuli that you encounter during the day (or during your working practice) to enter it and inform it. I’ve also heard this process called ‘being in the grist’, when almost everything you experience seems to somehow relate to, or feed into, the container of your novel.

Have you experienced the processes of ‘hushing’ and ‘holding’? If so, how do you achieve them?

Heather Dyer - children's author and Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow


Joan Lennon said...

Interesting post - thanks for this!

I've always liked to write with a lovely view to look at - that would be the hushing bit, I guess. And the grist bit ... that seems to be kind of inescapable!

Penny Dolan said...

A really interesting idea. Now wonder work gets difficult when we're unable to hush. Thanks, Hesther.

Ann Turnbull said...

I'm doing a lot of holding in this busy pre-Christmas time. I find it really helps to look at the WIP once a day, if only for a few minutes. Sometimes I tweak a sentence, sometimes just read the last few pages. Or I read the synopsis to keep the whole shape of the story in mind. I carry stuff around the house with me and keep the latest bits in my handbag when I go out. I also have a pinboard with relevant pictures.

Heather Dyer said...

Thanks all - yes, nature does have that hushing effect. And Ann - you're absolutely right about just checking in with a project regularly, even if it's just to tweak a sentence. It keeps it 'held'. I like the pinboard idea, too. I've never made a 'mood board' but I've heard it's really helpful.

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Mia Francis said...

Very pretty view. New term and interesting idea "hushing"