Ten top tips for improving your creative writing with mindfulness
Advice from Joy Kenward on how you can use mindfulness techniques to help you be a better writer
Joy Kenward is a creative writing tutor, novelist, and writer. She runs courses and workshops on the art of creative writing including meditative practice. Joy explores Buddhist meditation every day and has a specific interest in promoting conscious writing. She lives in south west England with her husband and is the author of The Joy of Mindful Writing and The Writer’s Creative Workbook, both published by Leaping Hare Press.
1) Keeping the mind in top form
Just as athletes promote their physical fitness by taking regular correct nutrients and exercise, so writers benefit from mindful practice to keep their minds alert, focussed and inspired. Try concentrating on your breathing for a few minutes, noticing your thoughts but letting them pass, and constantly returning your attention to your breathing. Doing this regularly brings real creative benefits.
2) Know what time it is
Mindfulness emphasises the present moment. This is especially important for writers, who often feel they lack writing time. Through mindfulness, we writers can develop a clear, honest understanding of which activities support our lives and our writing, and which are unnecessary or detrimental to either. With a more acute awareness of the present moment, we’ll give ourselves time to write.
3) A place to be
Develop an awareness of the places where your ‘inner writer’ feels most able to work. If you can’t settle at home, head for somewhere that feels right. It may be peaceful, or full of sound and action: a quiet library or park or buzzing cafe with a lively feeling but none of the distractions that can disturb us at home.
Before writing, sit for a few minutes with everything before you - your writing materials, notes, ideas and wishes for this writing session. Touch them lightly with your mind, without analysing or judging, and mentally turn away from distractions. These minutes as you wait to write can be a rich time of mental clarity - a great preparation for writing.
5) Where are you from?
During periods of mindful stillness, we become more aware of ourselves. Our memories, skills, relationships and activities are part of our identity as writers. Often, they contain riches that we hadn’t considered. Without causing ourselves deliberate pain, we can utilise such experience in our writing, enriching characters and scenes with authenticity drawn from the realities of our own lives.
6) Watch your world
With your pen and notebook, spend a whole day observing your world without judgement. Jot down snatches of overheard conversation; note your own feelings of satisfaction, agitation or joy. How do they manifest in your body? How do such feelings show on the faces of others? Does a smile always indicate happiness? Watch mindfully and put your observations into words.
7) Know what you love
Mindfulness brings mental clarity. Armed with this, be aware of your own enthusiasms and interests. This is about you - not your friends, family, work colleagues or writing buddies. What books, articles TV or radio programmes completely absorb you? What have you become knowledgeable about even without formal qualifications? Know what you love. Write what you love.
8) Be your own grandma
Writers often lack confidence. So, why not spend time mindfully designing your own ‘inner grandma’ (or grandpa)? This one believes in you completely, is delighted with your creativity, supports you always, and provides comfort when you need it. Invite her into your mindfulness session, immersing yourself in the feeling of confidence she brings. When you write, keep her beside you.
9) The physical mind
It's a scientific fact that physical exercise enlivens our minds. So, put on your coat and go out! Be aware, as the physical movement oxygenates your body, that it also brings life and inspiration to the brain. Don’t forget to take your notebook and pen to receive all those original creative ideas provided by a physically stimulated mind.
10). Write on
Mindfulness allows us to move on with our writing. A perfectionist could spend a whole year on a single chapter. Moving on requires acceptance. Accept your writing; accept it might not be perfect. At the end of another year, you could have a completed novel, imperfect perhaps, but ready for the next stage.
Is finding time to write a struggle for you? Read author Anna Ellory's top tips on ten ways to find time every day for writing.