It’s Week 2 of NaNoWriMo! I hope you’ve found a way to incorporate a little meditation– or at least some deep breaths–into your 50K writing run. If you missed Part I of this series, you can head over here. It talks a bit about meditation and using this ancient, healing practice to induce creative flow and a bit of sanity into the crazy that is NaNoWriMo.
Today I’m riffing on mindfulness and how this can help you as a writer–just as it’s helped me. To clarify, meditation is a mindfulness practice, but there are other elements to mindfulness, as well. Being mindful in your daily life is made easier by meditation, and meditation repays you in more mindfulness–they are intrinsically linked. Here’s all you really need to know about mindfulness:
That’s all. Be. Here. Now. Not in the future, not in the past, but right where you are, whether here is your laptop, the DMV, or Fifth Avenue. By being present, we live fully in the moment, experiencing the richness of our surroundings, tuning into what’s happening both within and without. This presence allows us to have a greater understanding about what’s going on with our own thoughts and emotions, and it makes it easier to connect to others because we’re all in, not distracted by stress or our phones or whether or not this book we’re writing will sell.
It’s not hard to see how being more aware, awake, and observant can help you as a writer. The gift of paying attention pays dividends on the page with richer description, on point emotion, as well as greater subtlety and articulation. Why? Because you are more in tune with what’s going on in any given moment: what’s plain to see and what’s under the surface. You may find that you also have more curiosity about out world and our place in it, and that, my friends, is what writing’s all about.
So what would incorporating a mindfulness practice into your day as you go through NaNo look like? Below, I offer a few suggestions to dip your toes in these crystal clear waters.
Take a quick writing break to clear your head and reenergize yourself. Don’t bring anyone else with you (pets allowed, but it’s better without so you’re not distracted). While on the walk, just be there. Don’t have your cell with you: no music or podcasts. Just you and this block. All you need to do is be present–a very hard thing to do, but one that gets easier the more you practice. Note what you’re seeing and feeling. Perhaps it’s the way the sunlight bleeds across a pile of autumn leaves. Or it’s the jarring sound of construction. Or the scent of smoke from someone’s fireplace. Allow the five senses to do their thing. When you notice that you’re in your head, thinking about your book or what you’re going to make for dinner, just gently bring yourself back to the present. Be. Here. Now. If you dig this, check out my post on walking meditation.
Another way to sneak some mindfulness into your busy NaNo schedule is to take a couple minutes to mindfully eat your snack or meal. So, instead of eating while writing, give yourself at least five minutes to do nothing but experience your food. Let’s say you’re going for your favorite writing snack: a nice big piece of dark chocolate. Be totally focused on the chocolate as you open it. Note the packaging, and the color and texture of the chocolate. Think about where it came from, the people that had to work to make this deliciousness for you. When you pick it up, note its weight and texture, and then take a nice long sniff. When you finally eat it, go slowly and really savor the experience: the taste, the feel, all the gradations within that one piece of chocolate. If thoughts arise that are not related to the chocolate, just gently note them and go back to your snack. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next time you write about a character eating something, your description will be richer for having done this particular mindfulness practice.
Nothing will help your writing as much as not allowing tech or the Internet to fuck with your word time. Writing mindfully means that when you’re writing, you’re writing. You’re not on the phone and checking Facebook and glancing at your FitBit app. You’re not fallowing down the rabbit hole of research. You’re writing. That’s it. This is a HUGE game changer, people. You will absolutely be more focused, more in flow, more efficient. Show up for your writing and it will show up for you. For more on mindful tech use, you can check out the social media section of my blog on comparison, or this fab site on mindful tech run by my friend, Liza.
There’s a gazillion other things I want to say about mindfulness and ways to be more mindful on and off the laptop, but I’ll leave it at those three for now and check back in next week. Feel free to leave comments or questions. What mindfulness practices work for you? Or, if you tried any of the above, what was that experience like?
Breathe. Write. Repeat.
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