Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
What makes a good writer successful? One understands that writing is a life skill. If we are able to clearly write – we are empowered to express our ideas in convincing ways to others. Successful writing is not merely a life skill. It is a passion to share our stories with other people. Stories that inspire, provoke emotional experiences, spiritual awakening, and provide a means to where people are called to take action. What makes a good writer successful is when an individual is disciplined in mindful and meditative practice and utilizes mindfulness as a tool to enrich the story telling experience.
The journey of mindful writing begins when we are open to our own awareness and willing to bring ourselves to a place of observation without judgment or criticism.
Daily Discipline in Mindfulness
Utilizing mindfulness as a writing technique requires discipline in the art of daily mindful and meditative practices. The easiest form of mindful meditation is simple breathing exercises. Since Mindfulness is becoming more aware of the present moment, as a writer, we are able to appreciate our own lives. Being mindful encourages us to manage thought and emotions. And, mindfulness is a way of being. A capacity for moment-to-moment awareness. Something we are empowered to implement and exercise on a daily basis. Mindfulness is teaching ourselves:
- Awareness – of our mind, body, and environment
- Present – experiencing the moment without concern of the future or past
- Focused – ability to make calculated choices where our attention is placed
- Embodied – synchronizing our mind, body, and spirit and being within ourselves
- Accepting – of self, others, and life
Utilizing mindfulness as a daily practice and discipline may use some of these to help guide our focus:
- Breathing – focusing on deep breathing exercises
- Body – when we are still or in movement
- Senses – what we are hearing, tasting, seeing, touching
- Thoughts and Emotions – our internal dialogue and the emotions attached
- Experiences – those things that we become aware of within our environment
Whether one engages in formal practice – sitting and focusing on breathing and meditating – or informal – making a cup of tea, doing the dishes – an individual will develop a deepening and enriching experience that becomes a natural part of our daily routine.
The Scientific and Medical Research
Mindfulness and meditation is an ancient practice. Most may recognize this within the Buddhist religion. However, many different religions have similar mindfulness and practice. Take for instance the teachings of Jesus Christ when he said to take no thought for tomorrow, but to focus our attention on today (Matthew 6:34). That is mindfulness. Focusing and being aware of what we are experiencing in the present moment. There is evidence within the scientific and medical communities on how mindfulness and meditation impacts our overall health and wellness.
This research reveals:
- Physical health – Helps individuals to develop better coping strategies to deal with chronic pain and other health conditions
- Mental health – Utilized in addressing a myriad of mood disorders, substance use disorders, PTSD and Complex PTSD
- Well-Being – increases overall life satisfaction, genuine happiness, reduction in chronic stress and greater appreciation for life
These are the reasons mindfulness and meditation are being implemented within schools and corporate environments. It is no more attached to ancient religious and spiritual traditions. Mindfulness has become a mainstay in all things we endeavor.
Mindfulness Helps Writers Focus
At Simple Writing, Leah McClellan shares these insights on how Mindfulness helps writers:
Many writers, especially beginning writers, are held back by fear, insecurities, worry, and a lack of self-confidence. These are thoughts and beliefs fueled by those thoughts.Mindfulness for Writers: Breathe, Focus, Write
When you practice mindfulness, however, it becomes easier to recognize thoughts for what they are: just thoughts, not absolute truth. And realizing they’re just thoughts helps you set them aside and get going—and keep going—with your writing.
Shawn Radcliff provides three meditative exercises writers are encouraged to implement. He writes:
Using your newly discovered peaceful mind, you can start to observe the world more clearly. Observation is the work of writers. Clear observation is the work of creative writers.A Mindfulness-Based Writing Practice—Unleash Your Creative Thinking With Meditation
Susan Brassfield Cogan shares these insights at the writing cooperative:
For a writer, the focal point is the story, the idea or the simple act of getting words on the page.The Art of Mindful Writing
Cogan’s article shares how the writer’s focus is on the task of writing. She also provides some information on how we come to observe our thoughts, as it pertains to writing, as mere thoughts we are able to come to accept and move through.
C.S. Laken’s website – Live Write Thrive had a guest post by Susan Saurel where the idea on mindfulness helps writers become better writers.
Through the practice of mindfulness, you become more focus on the things that surround you, but you become better at processing your inner world as well.
Isn’t that exactly what a writer needs? It takes time and effort before you can see the results of mindfulness in your work, but they will be there.
As a writer, we need to become aware of our own internal dialogue. Come to a place of accepting our thoughts and emotions – not as negative or positive, but as who are as human beings. And, yes, as Saurel points out, it takes time to make permanent mindful and meditative practices.
Our focus and attention is on the characters, the plot structure, and helps us focus on making those characters more authentic and genuine in their own way. This is what fiction and freelance writer and coach Vanessa Carnevale shares at her Huffington Post article:
The more I practice mindfulness in my personal life, the easier it is to translate this skill to my writing. There’s a marked difference in approaching a writing session with a mind full of judgment and self-doubt as opposed to having a calm mind that’s free from distraction and expectation. While I don’t find it possible to get into this calm and relaxed state every time I go to write, starting with one single deep and focused breath, helps. There’s something in that cue, in getting that stagnant air to flow in and out, that helps prep me for a session in front of the screen.How Mindfulness can help transform your writing life
All of this encourages us to experience life on a deeper level in order to translate those observations, thoughts, internal dialogues, emotional experiences, and understand our present environments into the life and breadth of our characters, their world, and the structure of those stories we want to share.
Highly Effective Mindful Journaling Tips
Here are some tips on how to incorporate mindful journaling as a daily meditative and spiritual practice. These tips were developed to help patients I work with in an outpatient methadone clinic. These are applicable to the writing life.
- Set aside a private place to write where there is freedom from distractions
- Allow yourself 20-30 minutes to write about personal issues/conflicts and feelings associated with those issues/conflicts
- Develop a daily routine of writing as consistency is the key in order to develop a way to organize and process through your own thoughts
- Develop a habit to carry a pen and small notebook to jot down snippets of thoughts, conflicts throughout the day.
- Set aside time to periodically review your entries – weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly and write out exploring any progress forward.
- Engage in a brief meditation to quiet your mind
- Simple breathing exercise
- Visualization meditation
- Relaxation techniques/yoga/stretching
- Free write for 2-5 minutes thoughts that come into your mind
- Focus on the specific conflict/issue you are facing today
- What is it about this issue/conflict that bothers you?
- Briefly describe in 2-3 sentences the issue/conflict
- Experience the feelings
- Explore the feelings associated with the issue/conflict
- How do you describe anger? Frustration? Disappointment?
- Utilize symbolism
- Focus on bodily sensations/physiological response
- Briefly write out how you are feeling and what it is like for you to experience these feelings within 2-3 sentences
- Explore the feelings associated with the issue/conflict
- Identify automatic thought patterns
- Explore the thoughts around those feelings/emotions
- Write out the internal dialogue in your head
- What beliefs and values influence these thoughts?
- Briefly write out your internal dialogue and how it relates to your feelings in 2-3 paragraphs
- Actions taken
- What was the outcome behavior you engaged in?
- Was your behavior responsive or reactive to the issue/conflict?
- Explore whether your behavior resulted in resolving the conflict/issue or if it created more conflict and additional issues
- What actions did you not take? How did this influence the outcome?
- What actions are you planning to take?
- Briefly explore the behavioral response and whether or not appropriate action was taken and write this out within 1-2 paragraphs.
- Briefly summarize what you take away from the conflict/issue, changes needing to be made, thoughtful encouragements, epiphanies/awareness that has developed, and any specific goals to work toward improving overall quality of life:
- (OPTIONAL) SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound
- Specific: What you want to accomplish/necessary actions will need to be taken
- Measurable: What will be used to track progress toward achieving goal? Milestones
- Achievable: What will it take for you to achieve the goal? New skills/Ability, tools needed to accomplish goal. Level of commitment and motivation toward achieving goal
- Relevance: Is this in line with your recovery and treatment plan?
- Time-bound: When will the goal be accomplished? Three months? 6 Months? 12 months?
Setting Goals for Effective Writing
Successful writing includes how we approach the task and what our focus will be. Utilizing the S.M.A.R.T goal technique may help you improve your daily writing tasks. Crafting these types of goals will assist in identifying what we are looking to achieve where there is a determined deadline. S.M.A.R.T goals helps us focus on concise language, relevant information, and designed to help us succeed. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What is the initial Goal you have in mind?
- Specific – What do you want to accomplish? Who is included? When do you want to do this? How is this a goal for you?
- Measurable – How will you measure your progress and know when you are successful in meeting your goal?
- Achievable – Do you have the skills required to achieve the goal? If not, are you able to obtain them? What is the motivation and commitment for this goal? Is the amount of effort required on par with what the goal will achieve?
- Relevant – What is the purpose in setting this goal now? Is it aligned with overall objectives?
- Time-Bound – What’s the deadline and is it realistic?
- S.M.A.R.T Goal – Review what you have written, craft a new goal statement based on what the answers to the questions above have revealed
Remember to include daily mindful and meditative practice by following these simple guidelines, or implement your own guidelines to follow. The overall objective is to create a space where you are present, focused, and unleashing your creative prowess to develop characters and authentic stories that inspire and provoke strong emotions with the reader.