Mindfulness and Writing #3: Clumsy Fingers and other Bodily Sensations

Mindfulness does not depend on special circumstances or experiences. We can be mindful of everything we experience, whether positive, negative, or neutral. That is why it may help us to better understand our experiences of the writing process. Today, I want to talk about mindfulness of the bodily sensations we encounter while writing.

When I transcribed interviews earlier this year I started being aware of the bodily sensations involved in writing. As usual my experiences run on autopilot, only thinking about them or watching them more closely if something goes wrong. While transcribing, however, I tried to be aware of how it feels to write. This kind of exercise allowed me to be mindful because I would listen and simply type what I hear. Transcribing becomes more or less an automatic task. Although I try to avoid multitasking, I succeeded in both transcribing and being mindful of the bodily sensations I experienced (this is more demanding when I write new text, such as a blog post). I discovered that my hand movements felt different during the first hour of writing than afterwards. During the first hour or so, my fingers moved smoothly over the keyboard, rarely typing wrong letters. Afterwards, however, my fingers started to feel stiff, producing more mistakes. While I first wrote without great effort, it became more demanding and, due to the increasing rate of mistakes, more irritating the longer I transcribed. Of course, this wasn’t the case every day. Some days, my fingers felt clumsy right from the start.

By becoming aware of how my fingers feel when I write, I got some insights about when it might be wise to stop typing. If I constantly mistype and, as a consequence, become irritated about my inability to type the way I expect (including the mental commentary judging my clumsy fingers), it might be time to take a break or stop writing for the day. Since I write for about an hour a day at the moment, I don’t get irritated by my fingers that much.

We can also be mindful of other bodily sensations, because it is not only the fingers but also many other body parts that help or obstruct our writing. Usually, I become aware of sensations when certain parts feel tense or different than I expect. The shoulders, buttocks, face, feet, or the eyes may all produce such sensations. Being aware of them, accepting the experience of a sensation without trying to change and judge it right away, enables us to find out why it feels the way it does. If we notice the signals our body sends, we might be able to change bad postures or habitual movements and learn new and ergonomic ones. Or, we become aware of them when the time has come before we get tired, irritated, and tense. If we learn to stop before our bodily experiences of writing become negative, we won’t connect writing with fatigue, stiff fingers, and an aching head and therefore try to avoid writing. Rather, we connect writing to positive bodily experiences. While not every writing session feels the same way, we know how to interpret our body’s signals by being mindful. Getting irritated by them won’t help to improve our situation. But when we try to be aware of your body while writing, we may learn something about our habits and ourselves. Only with these new insights we may change things for the better.

Next week, I continue with the topic ‘mindfulness while writing’ and will talk about the kinds of thoughts that arise when we write.

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