Hazel McHaffie

mindfulness

Writerly round-up

Time for my occasional round-up of the titbits about writing/writers that have appealed to me over the months of trawling through literary journals.

Did you know …

Psychologists have found that access to creative ideas will be enhanced if you have ongoing exposure to the actual smell of what you’re writing about – cigars, lemons, fish etc.
(Creativity Research Journal Vol 31)

Nearly 200,000 new titles are published every year!! No wonder getting your book noticed is such a difficult task for all except major celebrities and world famous writers. But at its heart has to be an online presence, advertising, and good professional advice. Oh, and a high quality product! Making your book the best it can be is the starting point for every marketing campaign. (Mslexia Vol  84)

Well-known authors and creative writing tutors and researchers all acclaim mindfulness and meditation as offering a range of benefits – alleviating depression, lowering blood pressure, managing stress, improving focus and creativity.  (Mslexia Vol 88)

Good advice for writing, and indeed for living, is: dwell whole-heartedly and unselfconsciously in that moment of vulnerability. And we’ve all felt rather vulnerable of late. It’s the first step towards recovering our confidence and sense of hopefulness. (The Author Vol 132.1)

Novel-writing easily tips from being absorbing to obsessive, and that takes its toll mentally. (Monica Ali 2021)

A good dose of self-doubt is essential for a writer, but a total loss of confidence is disastrous. (Monica Ali 2021)

Interaction increases engagement. (The Author, vol 132.1)

Probably the weirdest word in the top ten most used in 2020 according to Collins Dictionary is mukbang. It’s a South Korean word meaning ‘a host who broadcasts videos of themselves eating large quantities of food’.  (The Author vol 132.1)

If that doesn’t leave you smiling I fear you are having a bad day! Sorry.

 

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Mental health in a time of pandemic

Well, twelve months ago, as we headed towards Christmas, who’d have thought 2020 would be a year like no other? Were you truly savouring each family hug, each shared celebration, each freedom? I certainly wasn’t. We took it all so much for granted, didn’t we?

But plenty of evidence has been emerging that the mental health of the nation has deteriorated during the pandemic, and that’s on top of already soaring mental health issues. One only needs to think isolation, job insecurity/loss, uncertain future, economic hardship, fear of disease and death, bereavement, domestic abuse, cancelled medical appointments/operations, etc etc, to understand why. And official reports bear this out. We heard in September on World Suicide Prevention Day of the serious effect on men’s mental health of lockdown, and now this month, a coroner in Wales has highlighted the tragic suicides precipitated by the profound and detrimental effect of the pandemic.

Recognising the stresses, lots of organisations are offering informative and/or therapeutic sessions online to help people combat the associated effects, some generic, some focused – relaxation techniques, mindfulness, breathing exercises, coping strategies, that kind of thing. I’ve dipped in to some myself, and as well as helping the participants to understand the legitimacy of what’s happening to them, these opportunities enable wider social connections to be made. Just chatting, or simply listening, to those who admit to also feeling beleaguered by developments, can be a comfort in itself.

Then there are the amazing events being streamed online, making uplifting experiences and cultural events accessible to so many more than would normally travel to expensive shows or courses.  Ballet, opera, drama, concerts, masterclasses, demonstrations, tutorials … something for pretty much any interest. And again I’ve personally availed myself of these opportunities. It’s so heartening to see and hear artists and experts, actors and athletes, craftsmen and academics, turning their own troubled times to good effect by sharing their expertise with the masses – drawing, running, playing musical instruments, creating beauty, and so on. A bonus for both sides.

The recent doorstep musicals project is a case in point. West End actors have set up Doorstep Productions in a bid to bring theatre to ordinary people in streets across the UK, simultaneously entertaining and lifting their spirits, whilst helping out-of-work actors whose jobs have dried up as theatres are forced to close. Big names like Andrew Lloyd Weber and Cameron Mackintosh are backing this initiative. Heart warming. And the Dundee Rep have just begun to bring their production of A Christmas Carol to the streets of a select nominated few too.

It all says much for the fighting spirit of the nation, doesn’t it? and the resilience of individuals, and the kindness of strangers. I want to add my thanks to everyone anywhere doing their bit to boost morale and unite our nation. In these days of dire health statistics, economic crisis, and uncertainty over Brexit, news of individual or collective positive endeavour or heroism or compassion is a real tonic.

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