How Writing Meditation Made Me a Better Writer
I have been practicing Buddhist meditation for many years. Only recently did I discover how its teachings connect to my writing. I use classical meditation to gain a deeper and fuller enjoyment of life. Today, I apply the same meditative principals to my writing experience as well.
How did I start practicing writing meditation?
I used to dread writing tasks. I could get the job done but the process never came easily. My mind would jump to the end result before I wrote the first word. My mental list of 'why not to write' grew with each minute that I sat still in front of the screen. I searched for a way to enter each writing assignment with a feeling of ease, confidence and excitement.
This internal battle took a turn after an exchange with one of my writer colleagues at Wix. In a seemingly insignificant conversation over lunch, they shared with me these words of wisdom: “To be a good writer you must understand the difference between the mind and the hand.” And they were right!
I spent years in school learning how to write well according to an externally defined set of rules and guidelines. Yet I was never taught how to write without overthinking. I had never learned how to let go of judgment, to connect to the present moment or to train my mind to enter a state of flow. Meditation helped me find that place.
My first attempts at writing meditation were with poetry, but now I apply these same mindfulness practices as I sit at my desk and write UX copy. As long as your meditation practices follow a consistent structure, you can apply them to anything you write.
Here are 5 tips on how to begin a writing meditation practice:
Do one thing at a time On average, adults spend close to 3 hours a day on their phones. Our society has come to value multitasking as a skill. Still today, I use this juggling act to achieve my short term goals on a daily basis. But this approach has its drawbacks. It hinders the added value we can gain when we deeply immerse ourselves in one task. When you sit down for a writing meditation, gift yourself the luxury of focusing only on that. Turn your phone off, take out a pen and paper, and let your thoughts flow in whatever format feels natural.
Stay rooted in the present All forms of meditation aim to achieve a state of presentness. We spend much of our days reliving past stories or planning for the future. The real magic happens when you allow yourself to release those stressful thoughts and be here and now. It's safe to say that all successful writers know what it’s like to be in the zone and enter a “state of flow.” This term, borrowed from the field of psychology, refers to a mental state where a person is so immersed in their activity that it flows effortlessly. This only happens when we put down our phones and keep our focus on just one thing. To help yourself channel that flow, take a few deep breaths. Turn off notifications, close your other browser tabs and try to focus on the task at hand. Then, start writing—without reflecting on what you write or why you wrote it.
Get into a routine Human beings are resistant to change. It is difficult to transform a new task into a habit. Once I was able to integrate a writing meditation into my daily schedule, it began to feel like second nature. Try carving out a set part of your day or week and dedicate it to your writing meditation. With time, it will stop feeling like a chore and become easier. Start with a short time period that you know you can stick to, and set yourself a timer. Begin every session with an action or ritual that sparks right for you. This can be anything from pouring a cup of tea or lighting a candle to turning on some instrumental music. Connecting habits to cues will help you form a stronger writing routine.
Practice non-attachment The infamous “writer’s block” comes from our own attachments. I used to enter writing tasks with my mind set on a specific goal. This unconscious behavior put pressure on me and actually caused my brain to shut down. By accepting that today may not be the day you write the next #1 New York Times Best Seller or even impress your boss, you accept a form of failure. And then you begin to flow... If you’re feeling stressed about a writing task, write down a list of your trepidations. Identifying them and giving them a name is the first step in releasing them. To uncover your subconscious fears, ask yourself the following questions: 1. How will I measure this piece's success? 2. What is the worst case scenario if I do not succeed? 3. What are the benefits I can gain from the process of writing this piece? Once you accept your answers to numbers 1 and 2, and believe in your answer to number 3, you're well on your way to non-attachment.
Let go of self-judgment We are our own biggest critic. When it comes to any form of writing, our mind is the biggest hurdle we must overcome. By harnessing self-compassion, we can allow ourselves to accept whatever writing we produced. See yourself as a person first, and a writer second. After you finish a writing session, take five minutes to read your words aloud. While you start to read, focus on accepting every sentence you wrote. Try to notice how your mind reacts to the words on the page. You might find yourself thinking negatively about a sentence or a phrase. If it happens, then read it back again and try to find the beauty in it.
Know that you’re not alone…
While researching for this article, I spoke with fellow writers here at Wix. Turns out that many of them are also practicing some form of writing meditation. Here are just a few of the reasons they find it helps their work and life.
"Writing for myself in the morning helps clear my head and bring a new kind of creativity to my work at Wix. It's like a workout for your mind." -Netanya B.
"Writing songs helps me practice creative writing, thinking on the spot, coming up with new and creative ways to say something - and I am sure subconsciously this plays into any writing I may do." -Dana G.
"After I'm done writing, I usually feel like I have more clarity - about the day ahead, what I want to get done, about how I'm feeling about something that happened the day before or a solution I want to try in a work problem." -Lana R.
"I sometimes write as a journalist and also started a fiction book. Writing is like breathing for me. I need it—whether it is for my job or for personal pleasure." -Laura D.
Do you practice writing meditation?
Tell us about it in the comments below.
Tesha Shalon, UX Writer at Wix