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How Meditation Can Help Your Writing

July 11, 2012

I used to meditate. A lot. You know – that process where you sit down, light some candles or incense, and attempt to quiet your mind. Some days my “monkey mind” was all over the place with my to-do list, never in the present moment.

Other times, I fell into a zone of deep peace and the comforting “now” where I focused on my breathing, forgetting past and future. Whatever happened was OK. No judgments. I simply allowed whatever was there – to be.

Now, I’m returning to mindfulness meditation for many reasons. And one of them is for my creative writing.

How, you may ask, can meditation help with the writing process? You’d be surprised.

Availability to new insights. When I still and quiet the mind, I am listening – not only to my breathing, heartbeat and of course the hundreds of senseless, random thoughts that run amok through my brain … but I am listening to what wants to be birthed and named. I am listening to the creative source that wants to have a voice. In that silence, insights, perceptions and ideas that may have been buried beneath the chaos of daily life begin to emerge.

Being in the flow. As meditation allows me to be open to my creative self, I find that words often flow more easily than they have in the past. I just finished a novel that, although was hard work, was seamless and not a struggle. The pieces seem to come together from another place within me. And I loved the process throughout.

A safe space to take risks. As a writer, I am always a little anxious. I am always putting myself “out there” – something that’s never been easy for me. When I quiet my thoughts, I can find a safe spot to land, a place that soothes the raw edges of my insecurities and helps me become a bit more of a risk taker in my writing.

Frees us from perfection. The mind loves to judge. As a writer, I am my own worst critic. I tend to feel what I’ve written is never good enough. But when I meditate, I give myself permission to be free of my own tyrannical judgments, as well as the opinions of others. I tend to be more gentle with myself. And while revisions are necessary, I reach a point of acceptance in my drafts, knowing a future agent or editor will change my words anyway. In one of my favorite books, “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” Annie Dillard writes: “The present is a freely given canvas. That it is constantly being ripped apart and washed downstream goes without saying.”

Ultimately, meditation, much like writing, is a discipline. And a practice. But it’s also about letting go. And that’s difficult for many of us. As artist/author Julia Cameron states so well, “The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.” When we surrender, we allow a source higher than ourselves to express – and that can be humbling and surprising!

18 Comments leave one →
  1. July 12, 2012 7:35 AM

    Reblogged this on By Amanda Leigh and commented:
    I find that lately, before I start a writing session of any length of time I need to clear my head. I can’t do two things at once when it comes to writing because if my mind wanders, so do my words. And not in the good way.

    I’ve taken a couple of professional development courses at work that have had meditation exercises in them. I always loved the feeling I got when I opened my eyes after the visualizations and meditation. It’s an overall sensation that has always widened my senses.

    This post by Marielena over at Birth of a Novel really sheds some light on the concept that meditation can help you better focus on your craft. I plan on trying this out during my next major writing session. Please take the time to read!

    • July 12, 2012 11:42 AM

      Thanks so much, Amanda, for stopping by and for your comments. The trick with meditation, at least in my experience, is to simply “allow” whatever is there to come up and not judge it.

      Then, if stray thoughts enter, which they will, simply to refocus on breathing in, and breathing out. Some people like to use the words “breathing in, breathing out” or some like to use one word like “peace” or “love” as they breathe and still their thoughts.

      Most important, of course, is “allowing” the space and time to listen to what our creative spirit wants to tell us. Thanks again and do stop by again!

  2. July 12, 2012 9:53 AM

    I’ve never actually meditated. I’ve tried, but not obviously not hard enough. When I attempt to empty my mind, it’s just the practical thoughts that go away. Fantasies take over. It’s kind of fun but, so far at least, not productive. The closest I can come to letting go is when I’m alone and walking. That’s when I work out plot problems. The key phrase for me in this piece is “surrender, not control”. I don’t consider myself a control freak in other areas of my life, but in writing – definitely.

    Provocative post. You’re a writer I admire, so I’ll try again.

    • July 12, 2012 12:35 PM

      My replies seem to be a little mixed up today (Sandy, see my response to you below) … maybe I need to meditate a little more today! 🙂

  3. July 12, 2012 11:36 AM

    I tried to meditate for the first time last week. It went terribly. I kept getting flashes of Yoda and assorted Jedi meditating at the Jedi temple. Then I thought how cool it would be if I were a Jedi. Then 1234 by Feist got stuck in my head.

    However, I do want to give it another shot, and I love the reasons you listed here. It has been suggested to me by several people that I need to be a little less stressed, and meditation might just be the answer. Getting some inspiration for writing wouldn’t hurt either!

    • July 12, 2012 12:31 PM

      Stay with it, Michelle, because in the long run — even for 10 minutes — meditation does help, in our writing and our lives. And I had to smile at your Yoda and Jedi comments. Whatever comes up, let it come. Whatever wishes to go, let it go.

      Remember. Meditation is about surrendering the judgments and accepting what “is.” Good luck on your writing … and to all writers out there who follow our blog!

  4. July 12, 2012 11:44 AM

    Some people find that a “sitting meditation” is helpful, while others find that “walking meditation” is also healing and helpful. I’m a big believer in whatever is helpful and healing and speaks to your own life and soul is what is imost important. And thanks for the kind comment, Sandy. Back at ya … I admire you as a writer, too!

  5. Whitney Rains permalink
    July 12, 2012 2:17 PM

    Yoga and meditation helped me so much when i first starting writing my novel. I was able to sit down for hours and just write. Now that I have stopped meditating, I find it harder to just site and let the creative juices flows. After reading your article, I think I am going to get back to the mat and quiet my mind.

    Great post! 🙂

    • July 12, 2012 2:24 PM

      So happy that my post inspired you to get back to meditation, Whitney. I’m back at it, too. Thanks so much for your kind words and stopping by and for re-blogging this post!

      • Whitney Rains permalink
        July 12, 2012 3:15 PM

        Thanks for being an inspiration! 🙂

  6. Whitney Rains permalink
    July 12, 2012 2:18 PM

    Reblogged this on A Serendipitous Happenstance and commented:
    Read read read please!

  7. July 12, 2012 3:54 PM

    You’re welcome, Whitney! I like to believe we inspire each other in our writing and in our lives. 🙂

  8. July 13, 2012 4:51 AM

    Very inspiring post. Definitely the kind of path i’m looking to embrace in my creative journey. The mind, body and soul connection is very important to me and I as it unravels so does my WIP – so that you for reminding me the benefits of being grounded 🙂

  9. July 13, 2012 6:35 AM

    Thanks so much, Anushka, for your kind words. I also believe in the mind-body-spirit connection, a holistic system that is always expressing and yearning to be creative. Do stop by again and best and blessings to you and all writers who have been reading our blog.

  10. July 13, 2012 11:00 AM

    A big thanks to all the bloggers who followed this post … and if you’re reading this, make sure to check out and visit their blogs! You’ll see their sites above at the end of my post. Thanks again, everyone, and make sure to stop in again to see what else we might be sharing about the world of writing! 🙂

  11. aimeerebecca permalink
    July 13, 2012 11:53 AM

    This was very insightful, thank you! I love to write, but like you said in your last point, I criticise my writing a lot. I think I’m going to try this to bring out my best writing 🙂

    • July 13, 2012 11:58 AM

      Thanks for stopping by and for your comments Aimee Rebecca (what a lovely name)! As writers, we tend to judge our work too harshly at times, but meditation really can help us be gentle with ourselves. I’m so thrilled that this post has been of service to writers out there. 🙂

      • aimeerebecca permalink
        July 13, 2012 12:08 PM

        You’re welcome. It was a very inspiring post 😀 aww thank you, Rebecca is my middle name 🙂 Yes I know what you mean, I don’t just criticise my writing though, I also do it when I draw. So this will really help, thanks again 🙂

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