View Full Version : Lesson 4: Positive and Negative Imagery

April 19th, 2012, 12:03 PM
Nowlet's talk about another negative impact writing can have on your body and someways to avoid that.

You'veprobably heard of positive imagery, guided imagery and/or creativevisualization. That's where you listento a tape that describes relaxing scenes and guides you one step at a time tototal body relaxation. It's one way totreat stress. You visualize a sunnybeach, a mountain meadow, or floating on fluffy white clouds. Such images can lower your blood pressure andboost your immune system, actually leading to healing of the body. Persons recovering from a heart attack areoften encouraged to listen to recordings of guided imagery and progressivemuscle relaxation to lower their stress.<o:p></o:p>

Positivevisualization can also reduce bleeding during surgery, lessen post-operativepain, spend fewer days in the hospital. These effects are all well documented.<o:p></o:p>


Now,think about the images you deal with, the world you create. For ninety percentof your writing life, what are you writing about? Conflict. Angst. Problems. How many times have youheard it? Conflict on every page. <o:p></o:p>

Thoseof us who write suspense spend our days dodging bullets, having our cars forcedoff the road and having our apartments ransacked. Even when we're writing love scenes, we getthe adrenaline pumping. And if you'rereally doing a good job, you're really getting into your story. You climb into the skin of your charactersand suffer right along with them. Theworld you create is every bit as real to your body as if it were actuallyhappening. I've written several booksthat included a birth scene. I felt likeI wanted morphine after eight hours of writing about that!<o:p></o:p>

Thisis the opposite of positive imagery. <o:p></o:p>

Thinkabout this. Have you ever been feeling cranky,or fearful, or exhausted, and you can't quite figure out why? And then you realize it's because you'reinside your book? You're worried aboutyour characters. I have, on occasion,found myself angry at my husband and not knowing why. Then I realize I'm actually angry at my hero.<o:p></o:p>

Youcan actually stress yourself out dealing with a fictional cranky or sick baby.Negative imagery can cause stress, and stress is the number-one cause ofillness<o:p></o:p>

SOLUTION: We can't stop writing those scenes. We have to make them as gut-wrenching aspossible. So take frequent mentalbreaks, practice deep breathing, and visualize peaceful scenes. At the end of your writing session, performsome kind of ritual that you associate with transitioning from your writing worldto the real world. <o:p></o:p>

Iusually have a particular ritual associated with each book. I might wear a special hat or scarf, or post a picture of a characters orsetting right above my computer. Other choices might be to turn on some background music, light a candle, or drink a cup of peppermint tea. The ritual might involve taking my laptop to a certain spot in the house, or a library or coffee shop. When Istart the ritual, it signals my brainthat “this is writing time. Getcreative.” But when I am done for theday, I close the ritual by reversing everything. I take off the hat or move back to my office. If I am writing a "Starbucks book," I don't check my e-mail at Starbuck's. I only write. When I am done, I come home if I want to do other computing tasks.

You can dothis, too. If you con't turn off yourwriting brain, you end up working 24 hours a day and this can be exhausting, especially if writing is your full-time job.

Evenif it's just turning off your computer, straightening your desk, and reviewingyour activities planned for the rest of the day, such small actions can serveas your “ritual” to turn off your brain. Taking a shower after writing can "wash" those unneeded angstyemotions away. If you can't, or don'twant to take a real shower, imagine a shower of silver light raining down onyou, washing away any emotions you don't need. You could also take a run or a walk or do ten minutes of yoga.<o:p></o:p>

Tomorrowwe'll talk more about creative visualization as well as another problem manywriters have, insomnia.<o:p></o:p>

April 19th, 2012, 01:28 PM
Kara, I can relate to this. While writing an abuse scene where a father beat his daughter, I started shaking and gasping for breath. I had to shut down the computer and take a breather. The scene was especially difficult since I was writing my mother's life. It became a personal thing. Thank you for the suggestions. I will practice them.

April 20th, 2012, 12:28 AM
That is scary when something like that happens. I have written some scenes so intense that I had to stop, take a breather, and remind myself it wasn't real. And it must be worse if you have a personal connection to the violence you're writing about. My book that just came out has a Hero and Heroine who both have experienced abuse. I haven't personally (thank goodness) but even just putting myself into that mindset was difficult.


April 20th, 2012, 08:40 AM
I'm a little late in starting the lessons but have read through them all and I am finding some of myself in each point you make. I've always found myself completely attached to the characters I read about and found that it was even more intense when I started to write. I will absolutely use some of your tips.
I'm really looking forward to today's lesson.

April 20th, 2012, 12:34 PM
Welcome, Melannmarie. I am glad you're finding some use from the lessons!


April 24th, 2012, 01:57 PM
Here's something I do that helps me... It's a controlled breathing exercise, which actually slows the heart-rate.

While taking deep breaths you count to ten mentally, in 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 out 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10... just keep repeating holding the breath in and out for a ten count, usually after about 3 minutes my heart rate has slowed to a sleepy calm, which is great when having a near panic attack, or when I need to shut down for some sleep.

It also helps if I need to work out a resolution to think about a specific problem while doing deep breathing exercises, like this one. Sort of enables a conscious dreaming state. That I can quickly come back from and still remember what I was "dreaming"

April 25th, 2012, 01:42 PM
Any time you focus on your breathing and count like that, it's meditation! And yes, it does slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure. Try taking a BP reading before and after a few minutes of focused breathing/counting. The results are astounding!