When your writing is going well, how would you describe the experience? Most people who write talk about flow, how the ideas in their head find their way to the page organically; they’re able to intuitively and effortlessly go with them, sometimes shaping or guiding them when they sense they need to, otherwise just going with it – as the creative imagination leads them in directions they’d not previously considered.
Most speak about the total absorption they experience. Time becomes relative. They look up from their computer to discover it’s lunchtime or past midnight and they didn’t realise because they were so wrapped up in their writing. So rapt – so enchanted with their flow of mind that they have been totally present in the moment as it unfolded.
It’s an amazing thing, when your writing’s going well. But what about those times when it isn’t? The times when you sit and your mind is a blank. Or you remember that deadline looming and your chest gets tense. Or perhaps you start writing and the doubts creep in…
‘Is this story any good?’
‘Am I any good?’
‘I’ve been drafting this poem for months and it still isn’t right.’
‘I’ll just have a peek at Facebook.’
‘Time for another cup of tea.’
‘That washing-up really needs doing too.’
The truth is that the optimal experience of writing is by no means the norm, and for every moment of flow and inspiration, there’s one (or more) of perspiration or exasperation. That’s writing. That’s life. That’s what it’s like to possess a writing mind.
When we write we get up-close-and-personal with the contents of our heads on a regular basis. Indeed as writers, we’re doing what mindfulness meditators do. In fact you could say – since mindfulness and writing are both creative, flowing activities requiring commitment, creativity and a mind that’s focused, fluid and flexible – that writers are naturally gifted mindfulness practioners. That’s the good news.
And yet writers also have strong inclinations that impede mindfulness. That creative and enquiring mind that jumps around, gathering new ideas for a story or article, is the same mind that keeps whirring away out of control when we want to go to sleep. The sensitive and perceptive mind that picks up nuances of ideas, environment, character or relationship can end up dwelling and worrying. And the imaginative mind can get pulled into fantasy or get so caught up with what’s in the head, that it loses touch with the world beyond.
It’s my belief – based on my own experience of mindfulness and writing practice (and the changes I’ve seen in the creative people whom I’ve trained in mindfulness) that cultivating a deliberate mindfulness practice – outside of writing – is an incredibly helpful thing for writers. It utilizes their natural talents and enhances them, whilst helping them to counter the tendencies that can make not just writing life, but daily life more challenging.
With this in mind, over the next few weeks I’ll be blogging a series of articles that will introduce some simple mindfulness practices to support your writing life. I hope you enjoy them