How a Simple Breathing Exercise Inspired a New Genre

Jun 21, 2023 by S. R. Watts

It’s been said that great books are written by authors who have endured hard, often traumatic experiences. If that’s true, then I was born to be a writer. Not only did I find comfort in reading a good novel, but the stories I consumed inspired me to write my own epic tale, empowering me to tackle the obstacles I was forced to face. Thus, writing became a form of therapy for me, serving as an outlet for difficult emotions I couldn't express in any other way.

Of course, writing wasn't the only form of therapy that I tried to overcome trauma. Growing up, I met with various medical practitioners who prescribed everything from medication to psychoanalysis to try and help me cope with my mental health challenges. While I have trouble remembering all of the different exercises they gave me in therapy, there is one that I do remember well. It was a simple breathing exercise designed to help patients calm down and process their emotions in a way that allows them to resolve specific issues they may be facing. While it didn’t solve all my problems, it offered me moments of peace when life became overwhelming.

I expanded on this simple breathing exercise as a student in college when I found a book on the benefits of mindfulness meditation. In the book, the author talks about a breathing process as the basis of the practice. It includes simple visualization techniques that allow you to acknowledge the many thoughts your brain produces without labeling them as good, bad, or neutral. This would result in a greater sense of well-being as you begin living life one day at a time without the need to obsess about how it will all play out. It certainly helped me get through college as an honors student obsessed with making the grade at the cost of my mental health.

However, that wasn't the only way mindfulness meditation helped me in college. As a Creative Writing Major, I was tasked with writing a novel for my senior project that I had to present during my last semester in school. As part of my project, I was encouraged by one of my professors to reimagine a genre within the realm of fiction in a way that gave it new life. As someone who loves fantasy, I naturally chose to explore ways in which I could write a fantasy novel that did just that. To be honest, I had already been working on a new fantasy series for nearly seven years by that point, and I was confident I could take what I had already produced and infuse it with something that had never been done before.

One night, I panicked as I sat at my computer, racking my brain for ideas on developing a new fantasy subgenre through my book. Though I wasn’t required to submit the first draft of my novel until the end of the school year (which was still six months away), the trauma I experienced as a child led me to believe I was incapable of doing anything right, let alone write a book that was worthy of an honors student. As I was about to give up for the night, I was impressed to try the breathing exercise I learned as part of my mindful meditation practice. So I sat back in my chair, closed my eyes, and began breathing, inhaling and exhaling deeply as I acknowledged my fears and allowed them to wash over me until I felt calmer than I had in over a month.

Just as I was finishing my meditation, a thought came to me. It was a brilliant thought. An idea that made me kick myself as I began to wonder why I hadn’t thought of it before. Why didn’t I just create a new magic system based on mindfulness meditation? It was such a simple concept, yet so full of potential, that my brain began to conceive of all the ways my story could be based around this wholly new form of magic that later incorporated principles of faith that I learned from studying the practice of prayer. I knew I had something unique on my hands, so I began brainstorming ways in which breathing magic could influence my story's settings, characters, and plot.

By the time I was ready to submit my novel as my senior project, I had managed to create something that one of the members of my thesis committee had said “impressed and excited the entire committee,” which was something he said was hard for an undergrad student to pull off. It filled me with greater confidence as I left the University with more than just a Diploma. I had what was then the beginning of an exciting new writing venture that one of my beta readers said was “the beginning of a new genre.” As I continued to work on the book and refine its prose, I continued to employ the breathing exercise I learned that kept giving me new ideas for improving what I had already come up with. After 19 years of effort, my first book in a five-book series is finally ready for publication.

It’s been a fascinating journey, one I am eager to share with the rest of the world. Yet, it’s amazing how none of it would have been possible without the simple breathing exercise I learned while struggling to overcome trauma, giving greater credence to the adage that great artists are born from adversity and pain. I can’t wait for the world to read this exciting new book of mine. A book about faith, perseverance, and discovering your inner worth. The first in a new fantasy genre I lovingly dubbed The Visionary Epic.