- Why writing means anguish.
- How a cluttered mind inhibits the writing process.
- Steps to make writing easier and mindful.
- Instructions for writing a blog post as a meditation.ï»¿
The Anguish of Writing
A tour like that is rare, and I am thankful for it. I remember it frequently.
I wonder what his last thoughts - dark, desperate. Who knows if he thought of his writing life in the final moments.
I do not believe in the supernatural, but I felt the residue of his famous life, and it freaked me out.
I was so close, and the feeling was intimate. The empty house of writing royalty left me feeling tragedy.
Just living the writing life is torturous for some authors, Hemingway included:
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
Your Writing Routines Determine the Difficulty
Do you sit down, fingers at the keyboard, a blank white computer screen staring at you, your pulse quickening with anxiety? A billion thoughts racing through your mind? Do your fingers start to shake, your vision blur?
I usually get up and leave my office at this point, and it can happen 20 or 30 times in a writing session. I brush my teeth, play with the kids, yell at the kids, get something to eat, and play a video game.
But, this occurs in blogging sessions when I'm not using my brain efficiently, and my "breaks" create more clutter and chaos, making it even more difficult to write.
In these hours of anguish I slip unconsciously into routines that are counterproductive.
A Cluttered Mind Makes Writing Difficult
To write effectively, you need to be focused in the present, but your mind loves to wander around the past and play in the future.
Basically, you often remember past ideas and experiences, and you frequently think about what's going to happen in the future. A baseball game you're going to, a bill you need to pay, a home project you have to finish, etc.
This thinking produces little valuable writing because you are focused on the past and future - not the present writing moment.
Scientists have even located the region in the brain where this cluttered mind resides and what happens when you clean it up:
Researchers at Yale recently identified that two areas in your brain associated with pain, the anterior cingulate cortex and insula, light up in response to letting go of items you own and feel a connection towards.
And, you have to let go of stuff. The clutter is the past and the future. The pain is necessary for prewriting decluttering, but usually temporary.
Taking Control of Your Conscious, Writing Mind Through Meditation or Decluttering the Anterior Cingulate Cortex
Hemingway used to sharpen a huge number of pencils before he sat down to write. Helped to clear his mind and focus on writing. If the ritual helps you to write, keep it.
However, if the past and present are distractions, almost always true, you have to spend some time doing some brain cleaning and continual maintenance.
Rid yourself of all previous routines and try out these new ones to get you writing successfully:
- Clear your physical writing space as the first part of your routine. The physical space being free of clutter allows you to focus more easily. There will be far fewer distractions, and your conscious mind will be pleased with the minimalist feel. Keep on your desk only what you need for writing.
- Leave the computer off. Or, if you write by hand, push your materials away. Sit down in your comfortable writing chair (comfort is important), and position spine erect, placing your hands loosely in your lap.
- Close your eyes and take three deep, slow breaths, paying attention to how your body and mind relaxes. Don't think about anything else but those three deep breaths. If thoughts intrude, recognize them, and just let them float up into the air in an imaginary bubble, away from you. Don't worry if thoughts return, just keep letting them float away in a bubble. Three deep, clear breaths triggers the part of your mind that relaxes the brain and body.
- Continue with your eyes closed, focusing on how good it feels to breath. Just think about the breathing, let other thoughts float away. Ideally, 20 minutes of this provides the best start. Reality may be that you can only keep it up for a minute or two. In each writing session, try to extend the time you spend breathing.
- When you are ready, take one last deep breath and open your eyes. As you do so, maintain your focus - keep the past and future out. All that matters to you is here and now and writing.
- If you aren't quite ready to start writing, just remain seated, breathing calmly.
- Begin writing without overthinking the process. What I mean is: just let the ideas travel into your brain and put them down on paper, unhurried, calm, and nonjudgemental.
- If the actual blog post topic doesn't come write away, let your mind and body begin to put words to page, and don't worry about whether it is good or not. In fewer than ten minutes this free writing will center you and your ideas will become coherent. Do not allow yourself to get frustrated at any point, and keep your mind focused on the writing - like you did the breathing.
- Notice the joy in writing, not in the creation of perfect prose, but the happiness of the process itself. Writing is fun when you are focused. If you're calm and focused, uncluttered, the experience will be pleasant. Notice this every few moments as you write - that writing is fulfilling and relaxing.
- Break up your writing into timed sessions, because your mind needs a break. For me, an ideal writing session is about an hour, but it might be different for you. Find out what your ideal session length is.
- If at any point you become blocked, frustrated, or angry, return to the beginning mind. Close your eyes and jump back to step one or two. You'll be ready to write again in no time.
- When you start a new writing session, go through the process again, breathing and clearing the clutter.
- Adapt your routine overtime as you find what works best for your writing.
- When you are finished writing, end with three deep breaths of gratitude.
From experience, not just my own, but thousands of student writers I have taught, the method works but requires practice.
It may not make sense to you that a clear mind produces great writing, but allow the results to speak for themselves. Try this out as your own little science experiment.
And, please, let me know how it goes in comments below. Did it work? Where did you have problems? What success did you have? What might you add or subtract? I would wish you good luck, but you don't need it. You have the power of mind science behind you.
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