By Kris Maze
Writers could all use a healthy dose of focus and productivity and you can look anywhere and see a recommendation for Meditation. From your dentist's office to various phone apps, the benefits of meditation are promoted, lifted high on the pedestal of Zen, promising peace and a better life.
But even though I wanted to try the practice, I questioned what qualified as meditation and wondered which experts supported the recommendations.
What value could I expect as a writer if I invested the time to incorporate it into my routine?
I’m Afraid I’m Doing it Wrong!
My first barrier was an irrational worry that calming my mind would somehow make my mental focus worse. It's an unlikely scenario, but I worried.
I see meditation as a tool in the "writer's wellness toolbox." It is an avenue to tap into flow, to diagnosis what distracts you from writing, and to stay more physically fit. Meditation comes in several forms, but they all have an inner calm and focus as their primary goal.
The Mayo Clinic supports meditation as a health activity (which of course means, check with your doctor first!) There are several types of meditation, which I'll describe for you, dear writer, and samples for you to try with your own pens if you dare.
Meditation is considered a type of mind-body complementary medicine. Meditation can produce a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind.-Mayo Clinic
The one is most used when listening to a guide describe mental pictures that you find relaxing. Listening to prerecorded stories with soothing voices, or any quiet listening you do that conjures up positive images of places or situations that relax you, can be considered a guided meditation.
Writing Themed Mediations are readily available and easy to queue up on YouTube. Try these examples:
- Meditation for Writers: Meet Your Muse
- Meditation for Writers: See Your Setting
- Writing Meditation for NaNoWriMo
- “You Are A Writer”
Writers have an advantage when it comes to mindfulness. It is kind of our superpower. This term refers to being aware of one’s surroundings, and then accepting them.
As writers, we play close attention to our five senses, taking notes on the smells and sounds around us, and noting what our characters might hear and see in our manuscript settings. Mindfulness often comes to writers as easily as breathing, which is also a component of this method. So, what do we have to lose? If people-watching were an Olympic sport, writers would bring home those precious medals.
To meditate with mindfulness, you can begin with focusing on your breath. Let your mind wander a little and examine your thoughts and emotions. Identify how you are feeling and what you are thinking and avoid passing judgement. That is how to be mindful. To be aware and accepting of your writer self.
If you want a practical way to practice mindfulness, try this process championed by mindfulness expert, Tara Brach. Use the acronym "RAIN" (see below) to identify how you are feeling, to unroot to the underlying distractions, and to move into acceptance.
Recognize what is happening;
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;
Investigate with interest and care;
Nurture with self-compassion.
Use your writing skills to find out what is taking your focus away from your writing.
In this type of meditation, you choose a word or phrase, something reflecting the mood or idea you want to capture, and you repeat it quietly. Focusing only on the word will block out distractions and direct your thoughts to what you want. For me, that's more words on the page.
[If nothing else, repeating a word several times may make you smile and put you in a better mood!]
My daughter uses this method, but plays with the audio aspect of words. (She takes after her writer mommy!) Once, as a four-year-old, she repeated the phrase “Scotch Tape” in various inflections and voice alterations. After I stopped giggling and figured out she would not stop, I asked why she kept saying the office supply over and over. Her simplistic answer was she “just liked the way it sounds.” She then informed me: “My other favorite word is Napkin.” We spent the rest of the car ride home listening to, “Nap-kin. Nap… Kin. Napkin.”
It doesn’t matter what words you pick, as long as it helps you focus and relax your mind. If words and their sounds are your jam, this meditation could be your perfect Zen writer practice.
This video, Deepak Chopra's Go-To 3-Minute Meditation To Stay Focused, combines a mantra (your name) and a Guided meditation to envision happy childhood moments. At three minutes' length, it’s a quick way to try meditation.
Yoga, Tai chi, and Qi Gong
These three meditative practices use physical movement to incorporate your body and to calm your mind. Writers tend to be sedentary, spending focused hours at their laptops or notepads, and this one is my favorite.
The benefits of calming yoga or repetitive Tai Chi (TIE-CHEE) and Qi Gong (CHEE-gung) can bring energy to your writing. They also help you avoid injuries with tight back muscles and strained necks. Not everyone can do these exercises though, so please follow your doctor’s guidelines to use these practices.
One online yoga instructor, Adriene Mishler, gained a tremendous following (nearly 10 million subscribers) during the pandemic. Her audience grew as she brought peaceful thoughts and fitness to homebound audiences when our outside options were few. I personally enjoy her quirky humor and insistence to “find what feels good.” Doing one of her short yoga sessions, I never feel overtaxed. Instead, I have more strength and energy for writing.
Here is her yoga video specifically for writers.
Learning the multiple ways to experience Meditation made me realize I am practicing it in my own writing life.
When I get up to do yoga in the morning and spend an extra five minutes sitting with my eyes closed, my mind is free to wander and settle. As I start my active workout, I smell my coffee brewing as a reward for my follow through on a basic yoga session.
[I also accept that some days I am better served by taking an extra half hour to sleep and give myself permission to hit the snooze bar.]
When I take a two-minute guided stretch break at the beginning of classes I teach or do a breathing exercise before a tough task on the computer, I am honoring my body. I’m giving my writer mind a chance to reboot.
When I scribble in my personal journal, or reflect on my faith with a quiet moment, I am being mindful of my thoughts and feelings. I carefully step away from negative talk and take time to identify and address any stressors that can make my mind disrupted or jumbled.
Most important, as I practice that worry that "I'm doing it all wrong" is starting to flow away.
Do you use any of the meditations mentioned? Do you have other resources, author videos, or fun outlets that give your mind a break?
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Kris Maze is an author, freelance writer, and teacher. She enjoys writing twisty, speculative fiction with character-driven plots. After years of reading classic literature, mysteries, and thrillers, she began to write and publish her own books. She also writes for various publications including a regular post at the award-winning Writers in the Storm Blog.
When she isn’t spending time with her favorite people and pets, Kris Maze is taking pictures, hiking, or pondering the wisdom of Bob Ross. You can follow her author journey at her website at KrisMazeAuthor.com.