7 Ways Meditation Increases Creativity

Flickr / Mark Chadwick

Flickr / Mark Chadwick

Today’s guest post is from Orna Ross, a bestselling Irish author.


Our creative intelligence is not accessed by effort in the conventional sense that you learned at school or work. We cannot try or strive or strain for it, any more than we can strive to have fingers or feet. It’s more about dissolving the internal barriers that come between us and our innate creative potential, so we can align with it and allow it to flow more freely.

Meditation is a doorway between our inner and outer worlds. Between “reality” (the seemingly solid world that we can see, hear, smell, taste and touch) and an elusive “something else” we sense beneath, between and beyond what those five senses can grasp.

Meditation offers enormous benefits for everyone, and a set of particular benefits for those who are engaged in a creative activity like writing.

1. Creates Conditions for Insight

Insight, perception, revelation: these are the qualities that mark out the good writer from the mediocre, the great writer from the good. Meditation creates the mental and emotional conditions in which they are most likely to flourish. For centuries, it was thought that such qualities were the innate gifts of a special elite—born not made. Now brain mapping shows them to be available to all who meditate.

2. Eases Artistic Anxiety

It’s not easy putting yourself out there, day after day, in words. It makes us a little crazy—vulnerable, edgy, raw sometimes. Meditation soothes those edges and creates a place of safety from where we can take risks.

Brain scans show that meditation reduces activity in the amygdala, where the brain processes fear. It allows us to become, as Flaubert suggested we should, steady and well-ordered in our life so we can be fierce and original in our work.

3. Claims the Essential Self

“Be yourself,” Oscar Wilde once said. “Everyone else is taken.” But it’s not always easy, especially if you’re trying to do it in words.

By consciously quieting the chatter of our surface mind, we claim our authentic and essential self—the indefinable essence that makes us unique, different from everyone else whoever lived. And as we claim this self more fully, we become more open to expressing it.

4. Connects Us to Creative, Imaginative, Artistic Space

The human mind operates at three levels: Surface (Intellectual/Ego) Mind, Deep (Emotional/Intuitive) Mind, and Beyond (Imaginative/Inspirational) Mind. Meditation has benefits with regard to all three, most particularly in how it allows us to tap the deeper, wiser dimensions of our minds, which tend to speak in whispers.

Neuroscience is showing, through brain mapping, how meditation affects brain wave activity. The most striking difference is a shift, in the meditator, from the stress-prone right frontal cortex to the calmer left frontal cortex. Regular meditation also shows increased brain activity in areas associated with the creative and the mystical.

This is the shift that Albert Einstein described as “the most beautiful emotion we can experience … the [underlying] power of all true art and science.” What it means for the writer is experiencing more ideas, insights and connections.

5. Quiets the Critics and Enjoys the Ride

Meditation makes us very much less vulnerable to critics, and to the pressures and persuasions of others. It also muzzles the meanest critic of ’em all: the great fault-finder within. By freeing us from the surface chatter of our everyday mind and the sticky grasp of emotion, meditation allows us to observe ourselves and others more clearly.

Because it awakens us to the present moment, meditation allows us to see, and appreciate, what we are making as we do it—to enjoy process as much as product.

6. Improves Attention and Concentration

Essentially, meditation is focus. Practicing it daily helps us to have it and to be able to draw on it when needed—an essential when negotiating the distracted and distracting online world.

Writing is a never-ending game. As soon as we finish one post, we’re thinking of the next. Regular meditation develops our ability to appreciate what we’re achieving and getting right, as well as what still has to be done. To enjoy what we are making in the moment of its making. To value process as much as product.

7. Fosters Flow

For writers, flow is that delectable condition where words seem to appear of their own volition, where all we have to do is turn up and take dictation. Analyzed in depth by creativity theorist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and others, flow has been found to induce similar brain states as meditation.

Final Note

Writers regularly cite one problem with meditation: they don’t have time. For all the reasons outlined above, it’s clear that for writers, meditation doesn’t take time, it makes time.

What’s your experience? Have you ever meditated? What effect did it have on your writing? Would you like to try? What’s stopping you?


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Posted in Creativity + Inspiration, Writing Advice and tagged , , , .

Orna Ross

Orna Ross is a bestselling Irish author, living in London. She writes novels, poems and nonfiction and her Go Creative blog teaches methods of applying the creative process to all aspects of life. Orna has enjoyed independent self-publishing and publication by Attic Press and Penguin.

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53 Comments on "7 Ways Meditation Increases Creativity"

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Lynne Spreen
Lynne Spreen
4 years 4 months ago

I have begun meditating every day for 20 mins, due to inspiration received from a book about how to live in the moment, diminish stress. The writer, a doctor, was battling cancer as he wrote it. That, plus your post, are gifts of the new year. Thanks and happy 2012. (The book is reviewed here if you’re interested: 
http://anyshinything.com/2011/12/30/enjoy-every-sandwich-a-book-review-and-contest/)

Jodi Lobozzo Aman
Jodi Lobozzo Aman
4 years 4 months ago

I write about meditation often, it alway surprises me when people are new to it!  I love introducing it to them!  www.healnowandforever.net

Malena Lott
4 years 4 months ago

I began meditating in 2011 and found it not only increased my creativity, but helped me make better decisions in all aspects of my life and deal with stress. I highly recommend it!

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[…] am printing this post from Jane Friedman and reading it to myself every day before I meditate, to remind myself that it isn’t a chore […]

Lia Keyes
4 years 4 months ago

T’ai Chi has a similar effect for me. 

Vanessa Harbour
4 years 4 months ago

What a wonderful post this and so inspiring. Time to start meditating methinks

Jill Salahub
4 years 4 months ago

I’ve had an ongoing meditation practice for the past four years. I find that it is of great benefit to my sanity, and helps me to remember (as a person who spends so much time in my head) that I have a body. It brings me back to earth, and helps me cope with the strong emotions that arise from my writing practice, the intense experience that writing can be. Meditation helps me to keep my heart wide open, to be brave and wise–all essential to my writing.

Amanda
4 years 4 months ago

Brava, Orna. This is, indeed, “how” I write when I write well. Meditation (as sloppy and personal as it is for me) always leads to my better work, my most surprising work. In spite of that, I have to overcome the chatter of resistance (I’m too busy) to “use” this wonderful way of opening the faucet for whatever might come through. Thank you and happy new year. 

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Hamida Mulbocus
Hamida Mulbocus
4 years 4 months ago

Meditation is the window through which stagnant air is pumped away, allowing pure and fresh air to flow in.

I did regular meditation (after following a professional course) a few years back. My whole perception changed. The world was the same but I had changed for the better!

After reading this informative post, I feel charged to go on a meditative spree again to clear away cobwebs, and get blessed with inspiration !

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[…] jQuery("#errors*").hide(); window.location= data.themeInternalUrl; } }); } janefriedman.com – Today, 11:04 […]

J. R. Nova
J. R. Nova
4 years 4 months ago

This is brilliant. Thanks!

Paul Dillon
Paul Dillon
4 years 4 months ago

I want to start but don’t know how

Jane Friedman
4 years 4 months ago

This is one of the best beginner guides I know of: MINDFULNESS

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/074995308X

Nicole Alexander
4 years 4 months ago
Meditation is key for me to keep my creativity flowing. Not only does it make me a saner, more spiritually balanced person (especially in dealing with a day job in addition to writing at night and on weekends), but also I find it is the easiest way to solve writing problems I may be having. I’ve seen entire scenes in my head, heard dialogue and even outlined a whole section of a book, thanks to insights gleaned while in meditation. Call it access to the higher self or just clarity of thinking, but know my life wouldn’t be the same… Read more »
shirleyhs
4 years 4 months ago

I found this post on Jane Friedman’s FB page. Love it! Today I finished Chapter Five of my memoir, which had been slow-going for days. I spent 30 minutes in inspirational reading, 20 minutes in meditation, 10 minutes journaling. Then ten longhand pages just flowed out of me. Coincidence? I think not.

Orna Ross
4 years 4 months ago

I think not too!  Thanks for sharing this. 🙂

Ann Reid
Ann Reid
4 years 4 months ago
A rather forward-looking priest and guidance counselor at my high school encouraged all the students in our working-class mill-town high school to take TM. He even had trainers come in and students were encouraged to sign up and take the course which was offered after school. I began meditating in 1974 and continued on and off at times since then. Recently, however, after being seriously ill for nearly a year I had a very difficult time concentrating or writing at all. I remembered TM and the benefits it gave me in earlier years and I began meditating again as if… Read more »
Veronica Schultz
4 years 4 months ago
I’m really glad you posted this. I started meditating each evening to help with my insomnia and ADD. My ADD medication was costing quite a bit of money every month, and new health regulations required me to go to a doctor appointment every three months…so I stopped taking it. The meditation is not 100% as effective, but it helps enough that I’ve been okay (though maybe a bit annoying) without the medication. I had never really thought about the effects meditation would have in anything else I do, but it’s nice to know that it could help my writing.  Thank… Read more »
Adair Heitmann
Adair Heitmann
4 years 4 months ago

Wonderful, inspiring, true! Thank you. P.S. I’ve been meditating since 1972 and write about meditation in the real world in my blog http://www.creativityandwellness.wordpress.com

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Book Bits #108 – Bookstore publishers, Meryl Streep honored, Upcoming Titles, James M. Cain | Malcolm's Book Bits and Notions
4 years 4 months ago

[…] 7 Ways Meditation Increases Creativity by Orna Ross – “Our creative intelligence is not accessed by effort in the conventional […]

Ntathu
Ntathu
4 years 4 months ago

Beautiful post and yes meditation helps me remains calm and focused and writing to flow.

Wendy Ann Greenhalgh
4 years 4 months ago

Thanks for this, Orna. I’ve been meditating for 15 years and writing even longer, and I’m fully convinced of the benefits to creativity and well being. I now teach and blog about art, creative writing and meditation e.g. http://storyscavenger.blogspot.com/2011/10/meditation-writing-and-creative-mind.html – so good to hear of others following the same path 🙂

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[…] sure does help when someone else tells me how good it is! I’ve included an essay by Orna Ross here, it is so well written and inspiring too. Jane Friedman posted it on her blog and I learned of it […]

Diana Douglas
Diana Douglas
4 years 4 months ago

It’s so easy to let external thoughts & events direct our mind. I find meditation very challenging, but I want it to be a part of my daily life so I’ve been setting aside a little time everyday to try and quiet my mind.
Thank you for such an enlightening post.

Raji Lukkoor
4 years 4 months ago

Fantastic article, Orna. Thanks for writing and sharing. My experience with mindfulness meditation was so compelling that I wrote a book about it. “Inner Pilgrimage: Ten Days to a Mindful Me.” If you’re interested, it’s at http://www.rajilukkoor.com.
Raji

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[…] showed me this and I thought it was worth passing along. I tend to fall in the same category as the naysayers who […]

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[…] 7 Ways Meditation Increases Creativity – Some great thoughts for writers. […]

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Artist’s Date #1: Coloring | Susanna Carr's Blog
4 years 4 months ago

[…] is it useful as an Artist’s Date? I wasn’t sure until I stumbled on this article: 7 Ways Meditation Increases Creativity. This article is talking about meditation, but I believe you can also take it a step down and do it […]

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[…] 6. Jane Friedman enlightened us: 7 Ways Meditation Increases Creativity […]

Branáin S. Radcliffe
4 years 3 days ago

I would add #8: Clarity. Meditation strips away the layers that block you from seeing the world clearly. If you are an artist, the world is your source of ideas (ultimately), so being able to access it more clearly is crucial. Meditation connects you into the world without dirt on your sensory plugs.

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[…] For more information on how meditation can improve your life as an artist check out Jane Friedman’s blog and the post by Orna Ross, “ 7 Ways Meditation Increases Creativity.” […]

Jen Jones
Jen Jones
3 years 4 months ago

I like all these ideas, but “how” does one begin meditating?

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[…] You know the old expression, “sleep on it”? Apparently, it really works. I read somewhere once about a study showing that people make better decisions if they meditate or sleep on something.  Take a nap, a hot bath, or meditate. There’s a great article on how meditation increases creativity here. […]

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[…] You know the old expression, “sleep on it”? Apparently, it really works. I read somewhere once about a study showing that people make better decisions if they meditate or sleep on something.  Take a nap, a hot bath, or meditate. There’s a great article on how meditation increases creativity here. […]

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[…] Light up your diffuser and add a few drops of Lavender oil. Set the mood to relax and silence your mind, even for only a few minutes. Be grateful and reflective. Seven ways meditation increases creativity […]

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[…] it’s been for my mental state and creative flow. I recently read a very interesting article here about the benefits of meditation on the creative mind, especially for […]

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[…] it’s been for my mental state and creative flow. I recently read a very interesting article here about the benefits of meditation on the creative mind, especially for […]

Kevin B. Saunders
Kevin B. Saunders
2 years 6 months ago

Ki meditation taught to me by my Aikido sensei for five minutes before writing is like warming up before practicing Aikido techniques more in a positive way.

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[…] I meditate every morning for at least 10 minutes (I have been doing 15 minutes for the last few weeks but there have been a couple of days when I did 10).  Meditation is a doorway between our inner and outer worlds and allows your hidden creativity to come to the surface in powerful ways: […]

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[…] Meditation Increases Creativity […]

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[…] recently stumbled on this article entitled 7 Ways Meditation Increases Creativity and it paints a compelling rationale for why one should make dis-connection a priority, i.e., […]

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[…] To read more about how meditation can help their creative writing process, check this site out: https://janefriedman.com/2012/01/02/meditation-increases-creativity/ 2) Shun instant gratification like the plague. That means stop watching two-minute videos of […]

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[…] 7 Ways Meditation Increases Creativity – I’m sold! […]

Jessica Warrick
1 year 3 months ago

Sooo cool to see more and more people (especially creative people) seeing the many benefits of meditation, and how it can drastically improve their businesses. As a professional children’s book illustrator, I make sure to meditate regularly, or I just can’t produce the way I need to, and my artistic process stagnates. I just write an article similar to this, on meditation for creativity, focusing on how to practice for beginners. Check it out if anyone is interested: http://www.jessicawarrick.com/blog/2015/1/25/creativity-meditation-and-earl

Thanks for posting this Orna!!

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[…] a post on the link between meditation and creativity in writer Jane Friedman’s blog https://janefriedman.com/2012/01/02/meditation-increases-creativity/, author Orna Ross says, “It’s not easy putting yourself out there, day after day, in words. It […]

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[…] “Meditation is a doorway between our inner and outer worlds.” – Orna Ross […]

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[…] Meditation is simply focusing and thinking about one thing and one thing only. We are meditating each time we say we are “in the zone.” When you’re stuck or clouded by too many thoughts, all you have to do is pick a small detail in your room or the cafe where you’re working—it could be the surface of your mug of coffee or a nail in your desk or the pen in front of you—and focus hard on that object. Describe it to yourself in infinitesimal detail: the color, the texture, the way the light hits it, the lip marks… Read more »
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