Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Do This One Thing When You are Experiencing Writer’s Block

Guest post by L. Ayu Saraswati, an award-winning author, award-winning teacher, engaging speaker, innovative consultant, and an associate professor and graduate director of women’s studies at the University of Hawai`i. Moreover, she will co-facilitate the Creative Connections retreat with me in Hawai`i this May!

If there is one thing you could do to get rid of writer’s block forever, would you do it?

Okay. Perhaps “forever” is pushing it. But when Writer’s Block comes to pay you a visit, this is what you can do to un-invite it: spend at least thirty solid minutes in nature.


Well, there are at least three reasons why spending time in nature every day helps with our writing:

1. It is effective to replenish our depleted attention resources.
2. It increases our ability to creatively solve problems
3. It helps with our overall health (you can’t really write when you’re sick, can you?).

Can nature really affect our productivity? Research seems to suggest so. Psychologists found that spending time in nature improves creative reasoning and higher-order cognitive functioning. A researcher at the University of Rochester argued that when we need to energize ourselves, “connecting with nature” is better than drinking a cup of coffee. A 2005 study by the American Institutes for Research demonstrated that students in outdoor science programs improved their science testing scores by 27 percent. Similarly, in a different study, “participants who took the test after four days in the wilderness performed 50 percent better than those who took the test before departure, suggesting that their time in the wilderness gave them an advantage.” And here is one more example: Attention Restoration Theory (ART) suggests that “nature has specific restorative effects on the prefrontal cortex-mediated executive attentional system, which can become depleted with overuse.”

So. Is spending time in nature the absolute cure for your writer’s block? I suppose you won’t know until you try it, right? Before checking it out myself, I had actually heard about it plenty of times but somehow never really got around to doing it. (And I live in Hawai`i! How hard could it be to spend time in nature?) But when I spent seven days at the “Creative Connections: Writing and Meditation” retreat where we spent time in gorgeous and inspiring nature every single day, I can totally felt the difference. So now when Writer’s Block rings my doorbell, I know it's time to grab my snorkel and play with some fish, or when I’m lucky, a cute little turtle.

I am lucky enough to live in Hawai`i, where the ocean beckons all year. You can join us at the next retreat in May as there are still a couple of spots left. (Registration information is here.)  For now, however, I hope you find a way to spend time in nature wherever you are.

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