Bach flower remedies for writers

The Bach flower remedies are intended for self-help at times of emotional imbalance or life stress. Although their mode of action is not understood, and sceptics claim that they are ‘only’ placebos, they have gained world-wide popularity since being discovered in the 1930s by a British doctor, Edward Bach. There are 38 individual flower essences in the system, five of which are included in the well-known Rescue Remedy for use in crisis.

Having trained as a Bach flower practitioner myself, and run a client practice for several years, I have been impressed with how well most people respond to this safe and pleasant form of therapy. I have written a number of posts about them on my other WordPress blog, and a short ebook on Smashwords. Fuller information can be found on the Bach Centre website.

Four (fictional) case vignettes illustrating how these remedies might be helpful for writers are presented below. These are of course just simplistic examples; each writer has a unique personality and circumstances and is subject to the same challenges in life as anyone else. Remedies should always be selected on an individual basis according to the person’s current state of mind.

‘Lyn’ is a housewife and mother and freelance journalist who works from home. She is very efficient, but has difficulty in finding time and space for writing amid the demands and distractions of domestic life. Walnut to help her focus on her work despite what is happening around her; Centaury to be able to say ‘no’ when family members make unreasonable requests; and Elm to relieve her sense of being overburdened with responsibility.

‘Peter’ is determined to publish an influential book about improving healthcare for disadvantaged groups. After getting home from his full-time job he spends several hours writing and gets to bed very late, but his mind is so active that he cannot get to sleep. He is also feeling despondent and frustrated after having early drafts rejected by several agents. Vervain to help him relax and to moderate his over-enthusiasm for good causes; White Chestnut to calm his repetitive thoughts; Impatiens to curb his hastiness in submitting manuscripts before they are finished; and Gentian for his disappointment.

‘Sandra’ dreams of becoming a famous author, and has lots of different ideas for novels, but has not actually done much writing and often feels tired and unmotivated when she sits down at her desk to make a start. Clematis for becoming more grounded and putting ideas into practice; Hornbeam for the ‘Monday morning feeling’.

‘Matt’ has spent ten years on his first novel, making continually revisions but never quite feeling satisfied that it is good enough. Besides having doubts about the quality of his writing, he feels anxious about having his work read by other people, and about various aspects of publication and marketing. Larch to boost his confidence in his abilities; Mimulus for his shyness and understandable fears; and Rock Water for his perfectionist nature.

I would be interested in comments from anyone who has used the Bach flower remedies to assist with their writing, or any other creative process.

 

 

 

 

Bach flowers for finishing a novel

Browsing through the search terms which have been used to find this blog, I recently noticed the unusual one ‘Bach flowers for finishing a novel’.  The person who wrote it probably didn’t find much help from the information which was here at the time, but I was intrigued by the question and will have a go at answering it now. A large number of different remedies, only some of which are mentioned below, could be indicated; please visit the Bach Centre website for further details. Up to six flowers can be combined in one course of treatment and, as always, the choice depends on the personality and current emotional state of the individual concerned.

After months or years of working on your manuscript, becoming deeply involved with the characters and their story, the prospect of finishing the actual writing and moving on to the publication stage can seem quite daunting. The final product, which whether you realise it or not is bound to reveal some personal aspects of your self, is soon going to be launched into to the outside world. It may be met with criticism and rejection. You will have to tackle the practical demands of publishing and marketing, which may be unfamiliar or uncongenial. Are you anxious and fearful about certain aspects of the process (Mimulus)? Lacking confidence in your abilities (Larch)? Do you set yourself such high standards that you are continually revising your manuscript in a quest for perfection (Rock water)? Or do you keep making revisions because you are being over-influenced by others’ opinions rather than staying true to your own ‘inner voice’ (Cerato, Walnut)? Perhaps, rather like a devoted mother whose young adult child is preparing to leave home, you have anticipatory feelings of grief and loss (Star of Bethlehem), want to hold on to the former pattern of life (Honeysuckle) or do not know what to do next after finishing your novel (Wild Oat).

Many states of mind would tend to hinder progress on a personal project of any kind besides finishing a novel. For example: feeling overwhelmed by other responsibilities (Elm), being so willing to help other people that you do not have enough time for yourself (Centaury), mental lethargy in relation to getting started on a task (Hornbeam), the tendency to daydream about your ideas rather than taking practical action (Clematis), being distracted by outside influences (Walnut), feeling negative and discouraged after a setback (Gentian) or generally laid-back and apathetic (Wild Rose).

Or perhaps you are simply feeling tired of the book on which you have spent so much time and effort, and the best plan is to take a break from it before completing the final draft.

Whether a book ever can be considered perfectly finished is another question ….

Setting personal boundaries: or, writers who never say no

 

I had several writers as clients in my life coaching practice. They often raised questions about how to find enough time and energy for writing amid the other demands and distractions of life. They might have agreed to take on extra responsibilities and activities, whether work- or family-related, because they felt obliged to accept or did not know how to refuse without causing offence or risking disapproval. Many were women working from home,  and I could empathise when they described feeling tense and frustrated about having their creative flow interrupted when husband or children wanted something, a visitor came to call or it was time to get the dinner ready. Writing, more than most other activities, requires sustained periods of solitary concentration.

The answers sound simple in theory:  Reserve a dedicated space to write in, preferably a room which is not shared with anyone else. Close the door when you are working. Switch off the phone. Reserve set times for writing each day. If there is too much else happening during normal waking hours, consider getting up earlier or staying up later, though without losing too much sleep. Say no to unwelcome requests.

Before putting such new strategies into practice it is advisable to have a friendly conversation explaining them to other household members, and asking them to respect your privacy by not interrupting unnecessarily or making a lot of noise. If all goes well they may even suggest helping in other ways, perhaps by taking over some of your usual tasks at times.

Many people find it difficult to follow these recommendations because they have been taught always to put others before themselves, and never to refuse when asked to do something however unreasonable or inconvenient it may be.  As a result they may become overworked, tired and resentful, and are unable to pursue their own wishes or develop their full potential.  If they ever do decline a request, they feel guilty about it. But:

If you never say No, what is your Yes worth? Tony Neate

Overcoming this ‘people-pleasing’ mindset is not about going to the opposite extreme of ruthless selfishness, but finding a balance between the best interests of others and yourself.

Many of the Bach flower remedies, selected alone or in combination on an individual basis, can be helpful here. For example Centaury is for those who are over-eager to serve others, and Walnut for those who are being distracted from their chosen path by outside influences.  For details about these and other remedies please visit the Bach centre website.

Not all distractions from writing are external ones. If you are finding it hard to focus because of intrusive worries or wandering thoughts, or are continually being tempted to check your emails or get another cup of coffee, you need to set firmer boundaries for yourself.