Have you ever noticed that you feel pretty zen after writing? When you write, it’s like you’re in the “zone” layering the elements of a scene into your story. Dialogue, characters, setting and theme are all being poured onto the page in front of you. You’re so focused on what you’re creating that the worries of real life aren’t able to pester you. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to focus on writing through all of the chatter going on in our minds.
Mindfulness, simply put, is the practice of purposefully paying attention without judgment. By immersing yourself in the present, you can quiet your mind and learn quite a bit about your own habits and thoughts. Here’s how practicing mindfulness can help you focus, release your fears and write.
Have you ever had one of those days where you will find absolutely anything to keep you
from writing? “Oh, sorry I can’t write right now, I have to clean the dust form my keyboard, check and see which pens actually work, and organize my DVD collection based on the ‘hot-ness’ of the lead character.”
Or are you someone who will consistently work on the same portions of a project? Rewriting the scene from yesterday or researching another topic for your story rather than moving forward.
Or maybe you’re more in the “planning” procrastinators group. You can spend days planning exactly how you’re going to get something done, but you don’t actually move to action. This one is totally me.
Mindfulness helps you to recognize your own procrastination habits and behaviors. By being in the present moment, you can take a moment and ask yourself if your DVD collection really needs rearranging right this minute. You can check in to make sure you’re not getting bogged down in any specific portion of your manuscript. Or you can use mindfulness to catch yourself getting stuck in the planning phase and move yourself forward into action.
At some point every writer has dealt with fear and insecurity about their writing. We get so caught up in worrying about matching up with the talent we see on shelves, that we can’t just write that first draft. Setting these impossible mental standards is what clutters our minds and freezes us in our writing tracks. When you practice mindfulness, you can identify these thoughts as “normal writer thoughts,” not absolute truths, so you can acknowledge them and set them aside. This gives you the freedom to write without judgement. It’s amazing how fast writer’s block can melt away when you do this.
It’s hard to write a genuine story when you’re inner critic is pounding away at everything you’re putting on the page. Have you ever heard the phrase “Write the first draft with your heart, re-write with your head?” Being mindful of your own process helps you to turn off your brain and write from the heart. This will give your writing a genuine feel and voice that you can’t get when you’re obsessing over every tiny detail of your novel. If you’re trying to get that first draft down, but can’t get your inner critic to take a break, take a moment to bring yourself back to the present. Meditate for a few minutes and when you come back to your story, try aiming for honesty, usefulness or fun rather than perfection.
Later, when you’re going through edits mindfulness can help you be intentionally present while working. With practice, you’ll be able to catch those wandering thoughts that can kick in, and you won’t find yourself missing as many dangling plot lines or misspelled words as you did before.
Mindfulness has it’s applications in every part of life, but applying it takes practice and patience. Don’t worry if these tricks don’t immediately train your brain to go into the writing “zone” every time you sit down at your desk. Continually practicing mindfulness will help you to fight back against the mind chatter that distracts you and holds you back from finishing that manuscript.