Monday, April 15, 2019

Writing, No Writing: Guest Blog Post at North American Review




Here's my second guest blog post, "Writing, No Writing: Cultivating the Emptiness of the Page," at the North American Review: 

https://northamericanreview.org/open-space/writing-no-writing-cultivating-emptiness-page

The blog post opens:

"Normally, not-writing is rejected experience. Most writers value the popcorn sound of typing or other signs of productivity—a paragraph written, a journal page filled, a poem drafted, a noble goal of 3,000 words/day. The entire reason for prompts is to springboard writers out of the preverbal and into the verbal, for instance. We only begin to feel secure once language makes an appearance on the screen and the word count climbs. Each new sentence or line seems to rescue us from a perceived plight of failure, transporting us farther away from this face-off with nothingness..."


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Bowing to Writing Difficulty


One of my most important writing practices is bowing to difficulty.

As I end a session at the desk, after I've stored my notebooks and pens and closed the laptop, I bow deeply. I acknowledge the opaque black plastic of the closed laptop lid. 

It doesn't matter if the session was seemingly productive, resulting in new writing or a completed document. It doesn't matter if the session was seemingly non-productive, resulting in a phrase or two or perhaps no increase in word count whatsoever. I bow to difficulty; I bow to non-difficulty. It's all the same.

This practice is as important to me as anything I do to start the morning writing session. Or anything I do during the writing session. I would even venture to say that bowing to difficulty is as important as having the discipline to return to the desk. Why? 

The practice of bowing to writing is an exercise in acceptance and equanimity. I express my gratitude to the writing experience for what it is, without sorting it into categories of usefulness, non-usefulness, favorable, unfavorable. The experience is free of my evaluation, free of clinging, free of suffocating ego and ambition.

The practice of bowing allows me to continue to focus on the present moment of writing and work on avoiding future- or outcome fixation. Bowing to writing, no matter what, means the moment (and not the product) is the star of the hour.

Finally, the practice of bowing lets me establish the end note for the session. Bowing lets me take charge of "writing affect" (the emotions we have about the act of writing). Bowing allows me to steer my internal talk about writing toward gratitude, calm, and happiness and away from bitterness, frustration, and writing unhappiness. By purposefully shaping how a writing session ends for me emotionally, I am more inclined to return to the desk the next day.

The practice of bowing must be sincere: I honor whatever writing has happened in the moment.

Here's what I wrote about "Bowing to Difficulty" in my recent book, Prolific Moment (page 140):

"An easily initiated practice in accepting writing affect is "Bowing to Difficulty," in which writers close a writing session by bowing (physically or mentally) to their desk, laptop, notebook, or other writing materials for the challenges presented during a session. It's a variant of a remark I once heard a scientist make during a radio interview about his process of returning over hundreds of days to his lab to perform an experiment without success: 'Another day, another fail.' Eventually, he obtained interesting results (and was interviewed on National Public Radio), but success wasn't guaranteed--a lack of control that in itself constitutes a potent form of difficulty for many writers. To work without expectation of outcome or product and without expectation of ease is a trademark skill of a mindful writer who is comfortable enough with uncertainty and detached enough to perceive variability. A writing moment or hour passes: it contains the failure of seemingly insufficient quantity or quality. It's a matter of indifference, since the basis of success is the ability to perceive the writing moment and not whether the writing moment yielded appreciated material..."


* image from Taoism about com







Friday, February 22, 2019

New Graduate Course on Mindful Writing



Here's information on a new graduate course on mindful writing that I'll be teaching at Salem State University. If you live in the Boston area and are interested in a course on mindful writing theory (or know someone who might be) both for practicing writers and English teachers, please see below. The first offering of this course will occur during the spring semester 2020.

ENG 835: Mindful Writing: Theory and Practice

Course Description:  

This course explores mindfulness as writing theory and practice and examines the impact of present awareness on the writing process and rhetorical situation. It studies rhetorical factors of impermanence, audience, internal rhetoric, verbal emptiness, mindful invention, and the embodied and material conditions of writing. Present-moment awareness is applied to writing to reduce obstacles that come from mindlessness or future- or past-oriented approaches. Students practice mindful writing techniques for use in the classroom and their writing. 3 credits.

Topics Agenda:

Week 1: Mindful Learning. Mindlessness versus Mindfulness

Week 2: Theories of Writing Block. Writing Block as Form of Mindlessness

Week 3: Present Temporality and Writing. Overview of Present Rhetorical Factors. 

Week 4: Intrapersonal Rhetoric

Week 5: Intrapersonal Rhetoric

Week 6: Incorporating Intrapersonal Rhetoric into Writing Instruction

Week 7: Impermanence and Groundlessness 

Week 8: Impermanence: Revision and Feedback for Personal Writing and for the Classroom

Week 9: Audience Theory

Week 10: Audience Theory

Week 11: Preverbal Emptiness: Prewriting and Non-Writing

Week 12: Preverbal Emptiness: Prewriting and Non-Writing for Personal Writing and for the Classroom

Week 13: Embodied Writing for Personal Writing and for the Classroom

Week 14: Affective Responses to Writing Occasions, Preconceptions, Mind Waves and Mind Weeds

Week 15: Affective Responses to Writing Occasions, Preconceptions, Mind waves and Mind Weeds for Personal Writing and for the Classroom


Global Goals and Instructional Objectives:
Goal
1.       Students develop focus on the immediate, real-time rhetorical situation of writing, including rhetorical context, intrapersonal rhetoric, and embodiment, observing the fluctuations of the writing moment with detachment.
Objective: Students complete exercises focused on these rhetorical factors, including exercises in disposable and private writing, as well as meditation and writing logs.
 Goal
2.      Students identify the ways in which they depart from present awareness while writing and learn to notice their past- and future-oriented mental formations.
Objective: Students explore mindful awareness and mindlessness through in-class activities, freewriting, and writing exercises.
 Goal
3.      Students gain insight into how mindlessness causes writing apprehension and writing blocks and learn methods to prevent these problems in their writing or that of their students in order to develop metacognition and a calm outlook for writing.
Objective: Students analyze literature and research on apprehension and writing blocks and develop annotated bibliographies and analysis papers.
Goal
4.      Students notice the physical and emotional aspects of writing to develop awareness of the rhetorical moment for the purposes of metacognition and invention.
Objective: Students engage in activities and exercises during and outside of class that provide them with experiences in the physical and emotional aspects of writing, including private and freewriting exercises, mindful eating, mindful walking, yoga for hands, and felt sense.
Goal
5.       Students put present-based approaches to writing in the context of established pedagogies and theories in the discipline of rhetoric and composition as well as in the context of mindful learning theory in higher education.
Objective 1: Students compose annotated bibliographies, essays, and research projects that critically respond to assigned scholarly articles and books on composition pedagogy and theory and mindful learning theory.
Objective 2: Students develop exercises, activities, and lessons for implementing mindful writing theory in the classroom.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Program for North Shore Young Writers Conference: The Mindful Moment


I'm sharing the program for the workshop I gave last week on mindful writing to English teachers so you have a sense of how these presentations look. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in a presentation for your school, institution, or group. 


The Mindful Moment for Creative Writers and Teachers

2019 North Shore Young Writers Conference
February 1-2, 2019

Alexandria Peary, MFA, MFA, PhD
Friday:

First Mentor Group Meeting

I.                    Overview of mindful writing approach

II.                 Mindfulness, bare awareness, metacognition

III.              Strategies for developing mindful awareness
a.       Activity: Mind List
b.      Activity: Mindful Eating for Description

IV.              Writing Factor #1: Intrapersonal rhetoric (inner voice)

V.                Audience as Māra
a.       Activity: Caricature of a Tricky Audience

VI.              Preconceptions about Writing Ability and Writing Task
a.       Activity: Already Perfect Exercise
                                                                                                       
Second Mentor Group Meeting

I.                    Intrapersonal rhetoric continued

II.                 Audience Proximity and Revision
a.       Activity: No Feedback Feedback

III.              Mindful Writing Factor #2: Impermanence
a.       Activity: Freewriting to Track Change
b.      Activity: Momentwriting

IV.              Mindful Writing Factor #3: Verbal Emptiness
a.       Activity: Prolonging Prewriting
b.      Activity: Disposable Writing
c.       “Corpse” or Relaxation Pose for Revision

V.                Third Mindful Writing Factor: Materiality and the Body for Writing
a.       Activity: Yoga for Hands

VI.              Wrap Up
Saturday:

Recommended group activities (see handout packet or consult blog link):


2. Twenty Five Breaths Exercise

3. Momentwriting

4. “Corpse” or Relaxation Pose for Revision

5. Loving Kindness Meditation for Writers

6.  Disposable writing

7.  Word Bells (discuss what could be selected as a bell): http://www.prolificmoment.com/2018/12/start-your-writing-session-with.html