Do you want to write more with less effort?
Many people don’t realize that their greatest resources for writing, creativity, and motivation lie within them already.
By practicing Zen techniques of mindfulness and “no-mind” meditation you can actually inspire your inner artist into action without doing much conscious work at all.
That’s right, almost paradoxically, a state of “no-mind” can produce excellent results in your life in terms of creativity and productivity.
It seems like a paradox, because in our world we’re often told to think things through, and that hard work requires lots of conscious effort. How about inspiration and true artistic expression? How are these factors synonymous with conscious effort? In fact, I’ve found that simply being still and present in the moment can result in some of the greatest inspirations for writing.
Do you ever find yourself using the below “mental excuses” when planning a new article or project? In this post, we’ll look at how the Mind can bring up all sorts of excuses that limit and hold us back, and how to practice Mindfulness to re-center and re-energize your creativity.
1. Analysis paralysis
During the process of writing do you notice asking yourself questions like “is that the best sentence to open with?” “is there a better way to phrase this paragraph?” “have I written this well enough?” The mind can be a great critic and push you in the right direction, especially when carving out superfluous elements in your writing while sharpening pertinent points. However over-doing it can result in the tendency of over-relying on your mind and undervaluing your heart in the writing process.
Mindfulness Practice 1 – Let your mind calm down for a moment by taking a long deep breath. Once it stops mentally butting in and critiquing your work, listen to your heart by getting a ‘feel’ for what you are writing, rather than merely analyzing the content.
Some writers find themselves spending more time on thinking rather than writing! “Hmm, If I had more time, I could…” “If I had more knowledge on the subject I could…” “If I had a better computer I could…” If’s are often the mind’s way of expressing uncertainty, and can be a major roadblock for you in learning to trust yourself and your capabilities.
Mindfulness Practice 2 – Recognize that “If’s” have their purpose, but just ask yourself if you could let go of the particular “if” for just this moment. By doing so, you begin to let go of the thought of “if” and embrace the present moment. By being mindful and present, mentally-imposed limitations can be distinguished from true limitations much more easily.
3. The need for perfection
I used to know someone who would edit his work almost to the point of compulsion, revising draft after draft after draft until every word was perfectly placed in his essay. The need for perfection arises from mental standards, it’s often your mind’s way of saying “this is how things should be for your work to be legitimate, interesting and successful.” Once again, I’d like to stress the point that many writers have been taught to write from their heads, not their hearts, and the latter is where I believe all truly inspired writing originates.
Mindfulness Practice 3 – Instead of demanding of yourself that your work meet a certain standard, ask yourself “what would I like to write if I could write anything in the world?” Become mindful of where the energy in your mind and body flows to and trust in this experience to connect with your inner voice.
“A good style should show no signs of effort. What is written should seem a happy accident.” -W. Somerset Maugham, Summing Up, 1938
4. Being good enough
Letting your opinion of yourself shape the quality of your writing is something we all do but few of us realize. If someone ever told you that “you are a bad writer” or that your work wasn’t up to scratch, you may have held on to that false belief and carried it with you unconsciously, and now it may come out in elements of your work.
Personally, in this regard meditation has been the best tool I have ever come across for writing, rather than conducting psychotherapy or self-analysis I simply take myself out of the picture when writing and let the writing partake in it’s own creation. To those new to Zen, this may seem almost insane. “How can I take the ‘ego’ or ‘self’ out of the writing process?” some may wonder. However simply sitting in a quite meditation for 20 minutes or so can often allow you to write naturally and seamlessly with little “editing” from your mind at all.
5. Motivation and rationalization (“I’ll do it tomorrow”)
One of the major issues with being successful at writing, business, life, as a matter of fact anything, is putting your energy into doing what you plan to do, rather than putting your energy into planning what you plan to do. I think we’ve all fallen into the trap at least once. It’s the one where we spend 3 consecutive days convincing ourselves that the article, or essay, or project, can be put off until tomorrow. In fact we spend more time on this convincing process than we would have spent on writing!
Become mindful that you are withdrawing into yourself and ruminating, rather than expressing yourself externally. Notice when you begin thinking about a task rather than doing it and ask yourself “would I rather internalize and think right now to no end or would I rather be producing something real right now?” Use mindfulness to catch yourself and transform rumination into action on-the-spot.
Distractions are interesting, because they can cause us to question the value we assign writing. How do you mentally regard your blog? How about your business? The value of your writing? A professional writer who gets paid by the word probably regards his work as being of a higher value than someone who writes recklessly with little consistency and tact. How does your writing style speak to how you value the process of writing?
Becoming mindful of the value you assign your writing involves setting aside time every day to write and treating it as almost a “sacred space.” It is your time to be fully mindful and present while writing, and as you become more immersed and write consciously, you’ll find yourself setting more appropriate boundaries to filter against external (and internal!) distractions.
“Write your first draft with your heart. Re-write with your head.”
7. Other mental chatter
Like with anything worthwhile, I recommend writers give themselves fully to their writing. Immerse yourself in the process and be totally mindful of every moment. For me, writing is a Zen-like state, without a doubt, and I believe that only in this state can the true magic of inspiration happen. It’s not when we think tirelessly and dwell on the best way to write something that inspired writing really flows. Quite the opposite.
Quick tips for mindful writing:
- Remember to bring yourself back to the present moment when you find yourself over-thinking about what you are writing.
- Bring your heart into your writing, don’t just write from the mind.
- Instead of aiming to write the perfect article, aim to write the most honest, useful, or even “fun” article.
- Find your source of inspiration and motivation in your dreams, not in your expectations of yourself.
- Pick up on yourself thinking about doing something when you could really be using that time for†doing that same task.
- Notice how you rationalize self-limiting excuses, and then let them go, take your excuses out of your writing process.
- Be fully present during writing, treat it like a Zen meditation state where your focus is immersed and unbroken.
Learning Mindfulness isn’t just useful for creative writing, it can be a great way of allowing the energy of your inner-heart to permeate all of your daily life experiences. I believe most of us have been †taught to be “living in our minds” to keep up with the world we live in. Too many have lost that connection to their inner wisdom and presence, a source of inspiration that was always there, just waiting to be heard.