Ever Present: Ways to Build a Mindful Writing Practice
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~ Maya Angelou
With 24/7 news channels and smartphones beeping every ten seconds in our pockets, we live in a world of distractions. Bombarded by news, tethered to work, it’s harder than ever to find a moment of calm for ourselves, a chance to breathe. That’s why more people are turning to mindfulness as a way of staying present, a calming antidote in a hectic world.
When most people think of mindfulness they think of meditation, maybe even be-robed monks silently passing one another in holy sanctums. But in fact, many daily practices can be turned towards mindfulness if undertaken with the right attitude.
A mindful writing practice can, in time, open up great space for introspection and encourage peace and calm in our minds and bodies. Starting your mindful writing practice means going on a journey into yourself. Let us help you take the first steps with these tried and tested methods for approaching your practice.
1. Root Yourself in the Present
We’re surrounded by distractions on a day-to-day life, interventions in our thought process which interrupt our thinking and disrupt our flow. Despite a determination to sit down and write, it’s so easy for a notification to draw us back into our phone and mindless scrolling, or to hit a new tab on our web browser. Maybe you find yourself drifting off into daydreaming or worrying about the ever-present to-do list when you try to write.
All of these distractions, our phone, our worries, drag us away from the present. To build a practice of mindful writing, you first need to learn to stay in the present. Making a conscious choice to root yourself in the present should come at the start of your practice.
Here are some tips to help you do this. First, try leaving your phone in another room and if you’re writing on your computer, close down other tabs so you only have what you want to focus on in front of you. If you find your mind drifting from your writing practice, it might help to take five minutes at the start of your session to draft a to-do list for future appraisal. This gets those worries out of your head and onto the page so you can begin to focus on your mindful writing practice.
Don’t worry if you do get distracted. It happens to all of us at a certain point. Simply take a deep breath, return your attention to your writing, and start over.
2. Build a Routine
We’ll never completely exempt ourselves from the physical world, so taking practical steps to support your mindful writing practice can help reinforce it. Building a routine around your writing can both help imprint it into your day, and put you into the write headspace for setting down your thoughts.
A good routine might include certain steps that prime you for writing, such as making a cup of tea or settling into your favorite chair. Try setting aside a specific time for writing each day. Is it the first thing you do when you wake up, or a practice that immediately precedes your dinner? This gives it a concrete space in your day and means you’ll never miss a shift.
The best writers weren’t born like that. They worked hard to build good habits and reinforced them in their behavior over time. Having a good routine takes work, but pays dividends.
3. Deep Breaths
The unconscious motions of our breath, inhaling and exhaling, are a constant feature of being a living being and it’s easy to let this physical process take place in the background. But our minds are intimately connected to our breath, and bringing your focus onto your breathing can have a huge impact on your ability to concentrate and undertake a mindful writing practice.
Before you begin your writing practice, it can be helpful to take a few moments focusing on your breath to still your mind, and let you get into a creative space. If you sit down in front of your computer, or pick up your journal and pen, you often carry the anxiety, busyness and stress of the day into the activity you’re about to engage in.
You can separate your mindful writing practice from the day by introducing it with mindful breathing: long, slow inhales through your nostrils can lead to natural, deep exhales through your mouth. The sense of calm that expands through your body will let you get deeper into a writing flow state.
4. Rediscover What’s at the Heart of Your Writing Practice
If you’re having trouble focusing on your writing practice, or struggling with getting started at all, it can help to change the way you’re approaching your practice. Often, we get wrapped up trying to create an objective narrative. Once we become obsessed with the truth, it can become impossible to put pen to paper, because everything in our portrayal feels false.
This is where returning to the heart of your writing comes in. Let go of the impulse to write objectively, and concentrate on how you feel. Let your subjectivity guide your writing, and your thoughts and feelings become the center of your writing project. This can be the spark that lights a fire under your writing process.
5. Let Go of Your Perfectionism
In competitive environments, often fuelled by social media providing constant comparison, we can become attached to the idea of perfectionism – that something isn’t worth doing if it’s flawed or rough around the edges. But a mindful writing practice is about exhaling all the toxicity that our culture breathes into us, and if you’re feeling paralyzed because you don’t think what you write will be “good enough,” you need to let go of that commitment.
“For many people, nothing they produce ever feels perfect – perfectionism is something unattainable, always around the next corner,” says Peter Stewart, a writer at Essayroo and OXEssays. “Define your own terms of success in your mindful writing, whether it’s a page a day or to be honest with yourself on the page. Let go of ideas of perfection and write for your own purpose.”
6. Visualize Writing
Visualization is an exceptionally effective way of creating change in the world and whether it’s about career goals or strong personal relationships, visualizing positive changes in every aspect of our lives often leads to good outcomes. Similarly, you can strengthen your connection to your writing practice by visualizing yourself writing, long before you pick up a pen.
Whether your goal is to get published or just to maintain a personal writing practice, when you’re feeling stuck with writing, taking a break from the screen to visualize a positive writing process can get you through. Think back to the last great writing day you had and recreate it in your head; the smell of the tea you were drinking, the glow of the candle. This can help inspire you. When you return to the present moment, things will look a little different.
7. Be Mindful in Your Observations
Once you’ve firmly established a mindful writing practice, you might hope to improve as time goes on. “Writing more mindfully begins with making mindful observations about the world around you,” says Robert Larson, a lifestyle blogger at Essay Service and Paper Fellows. “Slow down and take time to appreciate the sensory quality of everything around you – what you can hear and smell as well as what you can see.”
A mindful writing practice can inspire a deeper connection to the world around you. All you need to do is look.
Need help learning mindfulness meditation? Check out Mindfulness Meditation Made Simple: Your Guide to Finding True Inner peace (paperback).
8. Build Mindful Narrations
A mindful writing practice can help to tether you to the present moment whilst also expanding your understanding of the world at large. To try this, find a space away from your usual environment where you can observe what’s going on around you; a bustling train station or a coffee shop is a great place to start.
Begin to build a narrative about what you witness – the people, where they’re going, what’s motivating them that day. Try to stay rooted in the present so that the stories you build about what you see are interconnected. This isn’t about a sprawling daydream, but about getting to the heart of life.
9. Be Consistent in Your Journaling
The most important element in a mindful writing habit is consistency. Simply by taking the time to write a little each day you will gain a more mindful perspective, feel more present, and get better at observing the world around you. Don’t give yourself hoops to jump through. You can journal in the back of a book, in text messages, or on the back of a beer mat. Consistency is the key.
At the heart of a mindful writing practice is a calm mind with space to think and create. By concentrating on your breathing, building healthy habits, and letting go of cultural perfectionism, you can move towards a free mind. It isn’t easy to achieve peace in a world of constant distractions and mental clutter, but a small amount of dedication each day can go a long way. Your mindful writing journey can start today.
About the Author
Katherine Rundell is a mindfulness writer at UKWritings and Academic Writing Services. She is a sculptor and pottery maker, and finds the tactile approach to crafts a great joy in her life. Every Christmas her family and friends receive tea cups, bowls, and mugs. Her further writing can be accessed at Boomessays.com writing service.
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