Writers On Writing / Zen and the art of sensory immersion: with Jan Cornall

We interviewed writer, performer and musician Jan Cornall ahead of her upcoming workshop, Creative Brainstorm.

Creativity Jan Cornall Creative brainstorm

Students in your course will learn unconventional approaches to writing, using meditative, sensory and visualisation techniques. How did you develop this method?

I learned to meditate 30 years ago in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. We use a lot of visualisation and there are some great teachings on the senses, so I’m sure that had some influence. I also love Natalie Goldberg’s idea of writing without stopping, throwing uncensored words and phrases on to the page. But mostly I wanted to give writers a way of immersing themselves in the sensory detail of their stories and so the methods evolved.

Your company Writer’s Journey runs international writing trips and retreats. What role does travelling and exploring have in your own writing?

Travelling is great for stepping out of your habitual patterns. It forces you to look at everything afresh, with what Zen Buddhists call ‘beginner’s mind’.  Since I switched from performative writing to prose, I’ve mostly written my travels, in both the fiction and nonfiction form. I always carry different sized notebooks and as soon as I get on any mode of transport I start jotting. For me, a tray table with a window seat is the perfect writer’s desk!

What does your daily writing routine look like?

Wake at 6am, twenty mins meditation, ten minutes yoga stretches, early morning walk, tea and toast then straight to the desk. Desk activities include: writing, research, scrapbooking or mapping, with more cups of tea (always herbal) and small crunchy snacks in between. I’ll keep this going if I can till 2 or 3pm. Late lunch, bit of admin, grocery shopping, another walk, light dinner, maybe a movie, then bed where I program myself for the next writing day and ask my dreams for any writing help I may need. A good sleep, then start all over again.

Writer/performer Jan Cornall has written 15 produced plays and musicals, a feature film, a novel, Take Me To Paradise, and a collection of poems and stories, Archipelagogo. Awarded several grants and fellowships, Jan has an MA in Cultural and Creative Practice and has taught writing at writer’s centres, community colleges and universities in Australia and Indonesia. With her company Writer’s Journey, Jan mentors writers and leads international writing workshops and retreats. A number of writers working with Jan have gone on to publish with major publishing houses. Jan is currently finishing a travel memoir set in Vietnam that traces the footsteps of the French writer Marguerite Duras.

Creative Brainstorm will take place on Sunday 30 June, 10am-4pm. Book your spot here >

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