Writing is a practice that requires both focus and imagination. Writers must paint details on the page that translate abstract ideas from their mind into readable stories and content.
Poet Robert Bly once said, “If we want to create art we have to stitch together the inner world and the outer world.” Mindfulness, which is defined as paying attention to our moment-to-moment experience with nonjudgmental awareness, can do just that.
In The Mindful Writer, author Dinty W. Moore writes, “Mindfulness begins with an awareness of the simplest action: breathing in, know that you are breathing in; breathing out, know you are breathing out. This may sound ridiculously basic, but this attentiveness is difficult—and it forms the heart of meditation. Through the simple awareness of breathing, you can eventually expand your mindfulness to the more complex and involuntary actions of your life.”
Increase Your Focus
As any writer knows, it’s not always easy to stay on track. Writers can get derailed by external distractions (checking email), writing distractions (choosing the right word or point of view), or existential distractions (self-doubt and writer’s block).
But, ultimately, writers are well-practiced at being attentive as the craft requires powers of observation and great attention to detail. So turning inward and focusing on the breath can be a practice well-suited to them.
Sometimes a writer's mind generates ideas too quickly to possibly be captured, while at other times it feels like a dry well that has been abandoned for years. Either way, the breath can be your ally in helping you come back to the present moment, the place from which all creativity flows.
“In the context of writing, mindfulness means that at those moments when you are focusing on an elusive line of poetry or a stubborn plot obstacle in a story, you are able to remain attentive to the task at hand, seeing the words that are before you, hearing the possibilities in your mind, not succumbing to the thousands of other willing and ready distractions,” Moore writes.
Quiet Fears & Judgment
All writers need help finding compassion for their work. It's easy to judge the words on the page or worry about publication with questions like: Will it be a best seller? Is it the best expression of the story I'm trying to tell? Will it go viral? Will it inspire others?
Today, many writers experience the pressure of keeping up with their peers or with their last published work. When attention comes back to the breath through mindful writing, you can notice these thoughts and pressures without succumbing to them.
Call on "Larger Forces"
"When I go deep enough with writing it takes me every place that Zen does," says writer Natalie Goldberg. "You have to call on larger forces—not your little mind—in the process of writing."
Mindfulness allows access to those "larger forces," helping to quiet fears or judgments so that more focus can go into the actual writing experience.
At its essence, writing is quite simple: Take ideas and write them down. It's everything in between that gets so complicated.
Mindfulness and writing can allow for more whispers from the heart to speak up and the aggravations of the brain to simmer down.
© 2017 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies