Focus is tough to maintain at the best of times. During this tumultuous period, it’s even more challenging to free our minds from distraction, so our imaginations can run free. This barrier to creativity isn’t new. After renowned English novelist and poet, Charlotte Brontë accepted a teaching position at Roe Head School for girls, (1835-1838), she too grappled with a steep reduction in creative focus. She wrote to a poet laureate in hopes of inspirational advice, and received a reply advising that she “take care of over-excitement, and endeavour to keep a quiet mind.”

I empathize with Miss Brontë’s challenge. As a writer, I understand that my mind is an instrument. My art requires that I am its faithful steward to sustain alertness to inspiration and preparedness for building connection between ideas.

Lovely words easier said than done.

Meditation helps. It was at first difficult to grasp what I was supposed to do while meditating. I’d close my eyes, tell myself not to think. Then I’d realize I was thinking about not thinking. The harder I tried to clear my mind, the more thoughts flooded in. My leg is falling asleep. Am I out of dish soap? Left to free-range, my thoughts will leap between the past and the future, think of all the things that have taken place or might happen, heaven forbid. There’s so much more to wrestle with now.

With practise, I’m learning to be aware of shifts in attention. When my mind strays while I’m writing or researching, I can resume focus faster than before–usually. In the creative process, now matters most. Now is the time and space in which I can channel my characters, lay words on the page to affect change. So I commit to returning to the moment, to doing what I can to protect the now. Still, I feel discombobulated much of the time. Every day cannot be golden, Miss Brontë. But each sunrise brings with it the opportunity to begin anew.

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