10 Tips for Mindful Writing and Meditative Journaling
What pops into your mind mind when you think of mindfulness and meditation?
Do you picture yourself sitting in a quiet field soaking up the sun while slowly counting your breaths?
Or maybe you think about a special cushion you sit on in your living room while visualizing a serene scene such as the aforementioned field. Some may immediately picture themselves focusing on calming down during a stressful situation.
Mindfulness and meditation can look like many different things, but at the center of it all, they both revolve around paying attention. One thing that you may not associate with mindfulness is a pen and paper. However, mindfulness and writing actually go hand-in-hand.
Mindfulness revolves around paying attention to the small details that are around you, which is also a powerful skill when you are writing. Mindfulness is likely to improve one's attention to detail because it helps people get into the habit of using all of their senses to absorb the world around them.
While mindfulness can strengthen one's creativity, creativity can, in turn, strengthen the practice of mindfulness. Getting into the routine of writing down your observations can help you practice being more aware of your thoughts and surroundings, and therefore enrich your creativity.
For example, can you think of the last time that you gave all of your attention to the sound of leaves blowing in the wind, or the feeling of the warm sun on your face in the summer?
As you start journaling, you will start to find yourself feeling more present in the moment in your daily life. This will help writing seem like a less tedious task because you will already have inspiration built up just from things that you notice in your everyday life.
It is common for writers to face limiting beliefs while they are trying to be creative—beliefs that keep them from doing their best work. However, establishing a mindful writing practice can work to inspire and motivate writers to move past these excuses and create powerful writing.
In this article we will cover what mindful writing is, and then go over 10 strategies that help build a mindful writing habit.
What Is Mindful Writing?
The practice of mindfulness has become increasingly popular in recent years. In the West, it is based on Eastern spiritual practices, but has morphed into a different practice all on its own. As a word, mindfulness is an idea that refers to a state of self-awareness.
We are always aware of something, whether it's passing thoughts or a worry or anxiety. However, we do not always stop to acknowledge these feelings without judgment. Mindfulness practice teaches us that it is better to purposefully pay attention to some aspects of life more than others. This allows people to let go of self-limiting beliefs.
So what does this have to do with writing? Directing your thoughts inward can be difficult in this chaotic world. Your thoughts are probably overflowing throughout the day, preventing you from being able to actually focus on your mind.
Many people practice mindfulness when they are doing everyday tasks such as driving or walking the dog. During this process, people train themselves to become aware of things that may otherwise go unnoticed. This may include the sound of one's footsteps or the feeling of a breeze on one's skin. Mindfulness allows you to become increasingly aware of your surroundings and appreciate them in a new way.
If you’ve been struggling with finding inspiration to pursue a new writing project, mindfulness may have a renewing effect. When you are practicing being mindful as you go about your day, you will be able to see the beauty and inspiration that lies in the details of your surrounding world that other people take for granted. It may only take one small feeling or something that you hear someone else say to open up your mind to new inspirations and start a whole new journey of writing. You never know when that moment may come.
The act of writing allows you to get your thoughts down without allowing them to get stuck in your larger bubble of thoughts. Distractions may come and go, but you are able to actually see when you are giving your full attention to your thoughts, and when you are doing something else besides writing.
Mindful Writing Tips
1. Stay rooted in the present.
When you sit down to write, it is not difficult to get distracted by irrelevant things. The phone may ring, or you may get an email notification—or you could hear a siren in the background. You may start daydreaming, or you may even start to think about other things that you need to do. If you start to think about other things or your mind begins to wander, use your mindfulness skills to accept your passing thoughts and label them as “thinking.”
After this happens, return to the present moment and refocus on your writing. It is natural for your mind to wonder every now and then while you are working—it is just important to learn how to acknowledge it and move on. One great way to get these thoughts out of your head is to write them down so you know you can revisit them later. Alternatively, you can take some time before you start writing to empty all of your thoughts onto paper or create a to-do list to handle at a later time. Try to focus as much as you can on your writing, and leave the other details of your life to be addressed at a later time.
2. Find the heart of your writing.
When you find yourself experiencing analysis paralysis or writer’s block, starting a writing project is almost impossible. To move past your writer's block, you first need to acknowledge it and accept the fact that you are having a hard time coming up with content.
Writer's block is often caused by a cluttered mind. If you have too much going on in your head, your mind can freeze and require a bit of a restart. Take a break and then come back to the project from a subjective point of view instead of an objective one. Move away from the facts and analysis and focus more on your interpretations and judgments about a specific subject.
Discover what FEELS right to write?
3. Breathe before writing.
Silently focus on your breath before you start to write. This will allow your mind to start focusing and your body to relax. It will help to slow down your random thoughts and get you into the writing mode. Breathing will let you become grounded and gain mental clarity.
Doing some breathing exercises, especially when you’re finding it difficult to write, can help break the pattern of writer’s block. A simple breathing exercise can help calm and clear your mind.
If you are well into your writing and all of a sudden feel stuck, take some more time to breathe. You should do this every so often throughout your writing sessions to refresh your brain and take a short mental break. This will also prevent you from subconsciously tensing all of your muscles throughout the day while you are writing, which can result in pain and stress.
4. Be aware and let go of your need for perfection.
The pursuit of perfection is a common part of today's culture. Everyone wants to be perfect, or stand out in some way as being better than other people. But what really measures perfection? Whose writing is actually perfect? This pursuit of perfection acts as a blockade to really great work because you are trying to achieve something that is impossible.
Having something done is better than having it perfect. Also, what one person may consider to be "perfect" another may consider to be very imperfect, or even quite faulty. "Perfect" is such a subjective term, especially when it comes to writing content.
Before starting a writing project, think about your expectations or your goals.
What does success look like to you? How can this piece of writing make you happy or allow you to enrich the lives of others? You may subconsciously be aiming to write something that other people think is perfect. Instead, try to write something that is useful, honest, or funny.
5. Visualize yourself writing.
Before being able to believe you can achieve success in your writing, you need to have an idea of what success looks like. In other words, you have to see it before you can believe it.
This is where the act of visualization comes into play. When you create a mental image of your desired outcome, you will be able to see the possibility of achieving it. Thinking about your preferred future will help motivate you to pursue your goal.
Remember the last time you had a good writing day. Take some time to literally think about the process you went through to write that day. Where were you, and what was allowing you to stay focused on your writing? Visualize yourself getting started on your writing project today, and how far you might be able to get. Think about actually holding your pen or typing on your laptop, and how that feels to you. Visualizing this will help motivate and inspire you to get started.
6. Create a routine and schedule time for writing.
Getting into a routine helps because, once you force yourself to actually write something, your internal critic relaxes and lets you get down to business. The ability to create and follow a routine requires self-discipline and determination, and will provide you with the motivation each day to write during your scheduled time. You will learn that your established habit of writing will produce your desired outcome of great work.
Habits are not acquired just because we think they are good and valuable and we want to have them. Routines and habits require time, persistence, and purposefulness to become consistent.
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You will want to do some trial and error to find a routine and schedule that works best for you, but once you have determined this, you can set aside a specific time slot for writing each day. The more you stick to your routine, the easier it will become.
If needed, come up with a trigger action you can do before you start to write. For example, if you set your writing time to be at 10:00 in the morning, perhaps at 9:30 each morning you can make a cup of tea to help prepare your mind to write. This will eventually send a signal to your brain that, when you drink your tea, it is getting close to the time that you will need to get into writing mode.
Mindfulness Exercises to Improve Your Writing
7. Make mindful observations.
When you are able to start the process of observing your mind and separating yourself from your thoughts, you will be able to see that your experiences become whatever you become attached to. This could be the endless chatter in your mind or the reality of the present moment.
Stop and carefully think about what is going on around you. Use all of your senses to experience the smells, sounds, and feelings of the present moment. Observe what is going on without judgment, and make an effort to prevent your storytelling mind from taking over.
Try to see your current situation as if you were an outsider looking upon the scene. Think about how someone else would describe it, and the small details that may be noticed. Try to look at things from a new perspective.
8. Make mindful narrations.
Find somewhere away from your home where you can observe the world around you. Create a narrative in your mind revolving around the things that you notice. Use your senses to set the scene, and allow the actions around you to start telling a story. Your goal is to stay in the present moment while creating your own narrative to go along with it.
9. Do the beat word sketch (popularized by Jack Kerouac).
Have you ever heard of Jack Kerouac's Book of Sketches? This book, published posthumously, is a collection of impulsive prose poetry written by Kerouac written throughout the 1950s. He carried a notebook in his jacket pocket where he documented his travels through the United States.
In his writings, he also discussed themes of music, art, life, Buddhism, writing, loneliness, and his wandering lifestyle. This simple habit of Kerouac's ended up being a well-known work of writing that has inspired a lot of people who came after him.
To do a beat word sketch, stop what you are doing for 5 or 10 minutes to record a stream of consciousness. You can write about the things you see around you or the thoughts that pass through your head. Don't use full sentences, grammar, or punctuation while you are writing. Simply add a dash between your thoughts. Embrace your trivial thoughts and write them down alongside any deep thoughts that come to mind as well. Let your left brain and your right brain take turns providing you with content. This will open up your mind and get you thinking about new ideas, or just paying attention to your current thoughts.
10. Start journaling consistently.
A mindful journaling practice can be done in many ways, but you should find what works best for you and stick with it. Don't feel pressured to buy the most expensive journal or a fancy pen—just write in whatever form feels right to you. Any simple notebook is fine. Regular journaling will help you build the habit of being aware and present. It will help you see your surroundings as well as your emotions.
In conclusion, the more you are able to engage in mindfulness practices, the more you will be able to see your work as being realistic because you will be focusing on all of its aspects. You’ll be able to see it for its total value.
Your writing is likely to become more dimensional and complex as you practice mindfulness. Because you will be focusing on all of your senses, you will be able to describe things in depth to your reader and connect with them on a new level that is less superficial than you were able to before practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness can play a large role in helping you improve your writing. But don’t feel discouraged if you don’t see results right away. Similar to writing, mindfulness takes practice and improves with dedication.
Take one or two of these strategies to start with, and practice them for five minutes before you start to write in order to get into the habit of mindful writing. If one trick doesn't work, move on to the next until you find what works best for you.
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