Mindfulness and Writing #2: Cultivation

To be effective and productive writers, we need to make writing a habit. To be mindful people, we need to make mindfulness a habit as well. Both writing and mindfulness can be learned and developed. We can make them part of our everyday and professional lives. To be able to write well and to be mindful, however, we have to cultivate them both.

In the case of writing, as discussed in the previous posts, we need to commit to a schedule of regular writing sessions, whether or not we feel like writing or have the desired equipment. Only by writing do we learn how to write good prose, well crafted articles or dissertations. Although we have to think about what and how to write, we won’t improve our skills or develop our voice as writers unless we sit down and write.

Being mindful is similar. Thinking about how mindful I would like to be won’t help, unless I try to be mindful time and again. As I suggested in the previous post, mindfulness means being aware of one’s experiences in a given moment, while not judging them (including bodily feelings, emotions, and thoughts). Being mindful, we try to be aware and accept what is at the moment. Later of course, we can try to change our ingrained reactions and automatic patterns of experience by means of reflection. But first, we have to notice what is happening by being mindful. In contrast to writing, however, we don’t make a schedule that tells us to be mindful for an hour at a certain time (only if you want to meditate). We also don’t need special equipment. All mindfulness demands from us is that we try to be aware of what happens as often as possible. To become more mindful and to develop this quality of our mind, we need to cultivate it.

We can be mindful anytime and anywhere, from right after waking up in the morning to the moment before we fall asleep in the evening. In order to make it easier to remember to be mindful, we can choose specific actions or situations in our daily life that we connect with mindfulness. Aside from opening doors, brushing teeth, walking to work, or talking to someone, I would like to suggest that we can also be mindful while writing. We thereby establish a connection between two habits that demand a similar disciplined and regular approach. From the perspective of writing, we take the scheduled session as an opportunity to write with a clear, focused and awake mind. From the perspective of mindfulness, writing represents a recurrent action that allows us to remember to be aware of what happens. Both habits can feed on the other as in a symbiotic relationship (of course, this doesn’t apply to writing and mindfulness alone).

Cultivating both writing and mindfulness, whether separately or in connection, they remain a challenge for most people most of the time. Perfection, though, isn’t the goal. Just stick to your schedule, whether you meet the planned goals or not, and stick to being mindful whether or not you succeed for more than a few seconds. To become good writers and mindful people, we have to persevere even in the face of bad moods or adverse circumstances. Then we will notice how our writing and mindfulness improve, and we will be able to notice and enjoy what we accomplished. Cultivation of both, then, becomes an end in itself.

Next week, I want to talk about how we can apply mindfulness while writing and what insights it may produce.

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