The best cure for writer’s block? Stop writing. Yes. You read that correctly. Close that lap top, get up, and stretch. Go exercise. Dance. Bake a pie. Eat. Draw. Listen to music. Play an instrument. Whatever you do, get off that hamster wheel because you’re only making it worse. If your creative juices are blocked in one area, loosen up a few others and you will intuit what your characters need. Conflict drives plot, and the best plots are character driven. Characters are driven by emotions, and emotions are housed in the body.
In my own practice, I use mandala making as a way to shift creative gears and loosen those muscles. A mandala is any image emphasizing a circle with a center, often including some representation of quaternity, such as a cross or square. It is a symbolic expression of one’s “Higher Self,” what spiritual writer Sonia Choquette describes as “your most authentic you,”—the part directly connected to God. Tibetan monks design mandalas from colored sand in their meditation practices, to put the body, mind, and spirit into balance.
A Visual Language
There are many structured and unstructured ways to make a mandala. In general, Mandalas are created using a balance of line, shape, and color to create personal symbols that represent different aspects of the individual self.
For example, what feeling does this line represent for you?
Does it change if we add red?
What if we add blue?
What if there is a circle behind it?
Or a triangle?
Briefly sketch a few lines, colors, and shapes to describe at least three of your current feeling states. They can be as simple or as complicated as you want. They might also overlap.
Remember, Mandalas are created to promote balance. In order to achieve this, traditionally the Mandala is divided into quadrants (particularly in Tibetan and Hindu Buddhism). Whatever design you create in one quadrant, must be mirrored in each of the remaining four quadrants.
Creating a mandala is about navigating a path from the external to the internal. Finding your center is an essential part of remaining grounded during this process. Consider the center of your mandala. What feeling do you want to put there? Is there a unique symbol that seems appropriate? A color? A shape? Perhaps none at all? There is no right or wrong answer. But whatever is in the center of your piece, is significant.
But don’t worry about the rules. This is your mandala. You can be as strict, or as lenient as you like. Play with your shapes and symbols. Maybe as you work, a spontaneous new line or color appears. Let it happen. Note how it feels.
1. What would you title your mandala?
2. How did you feel during the process of creating your mandala? Was any aspect more or less difficult?
3. What was your approach? Did you follow the rules, break them, bend them? Did you remain inside the lines? Did you want to breach the perimeter?
4. If your mandala had a message for you, what would it be?
5. How did you address the center of your mandala? How does every aspect of your design relate to the center of your piece?
6. Where does your eye go when you look at the mandala? In what direction does your eye follow the “flow” of your design?
7. How are your colors represented? Are they saturated, or transparent? Are your lines and shapes bold, or are they timid? Is your mandala full or are there empty spaces?
8. What will you do now with your mandala?
9. If you were to put your mandala in your body, how would it feel? How would your body move? Move that way now.
10. Where is the safest place in your mandala and why? Where is it unsafe? What could you add to make it safe?
11. If your mandala needed something what would it be? If it wanted something, what would it be?
In responding to the above questions, we bring the journey full circle; having collected answers from the body, to feed the mind. Pin your mandala to an idea board or keep it for later reference, as it will help when mapping your character’s conflicts and how they move plot forward. It might also give you some insight into your own motivations for writing this character, and the lessons he or she has to teach you. And that’s what makes the job worth it.
To read more, check out my post
And please post your mandalas!