Monday, April 10, 2017

Momentwriting: A Mindful Alternative to Freewriting

To be increasingly mindful as we write, we might need a new exercise to complement freewriting.

Without a doubt, freewriting is invaluable in helping writers capture their internal language on the page or screen. Usually, it's one of the few times in a mainstream writing education in which students are encouraged to see their natural ongoing inner verbal production as a legitimate form of writing. Freewriting does wonderful work in helping writers practice acceptance of flaws and redundancy.

Momentwriting, however, is possibly a more complete depiction of the present moment. In momentwriting, writers are attuned to their literal situation. The device fosters mindfulness because it does not ask the writer to omit any part of the present writing moment.

Momentwriting does not prescreen the moment in the way that freewriting does. Instead, it invites new wording as well as nonverbal experiences. The preconception that we are to keep up a non-stop writing pace is dropped.

Unlike freewriting, momentwriting doesn’t goad the hands to keep up with a certain handwriting or typing rate but rather lets the pace happen in accord with intrapersonal talk and emerging mental formations. There are moments in which the person is not producing words while remaining attentive, through the breath, to the writing moment.

Instead of a forced verbal march that pushes past blank moments, momentwriting includes blanks as factors in a writing situation that are worth recording: the shriek of a blue jay, the after taste of coffee, a sudden wave of wordless energy, a wordless image, a passage in which mainly the breath is noticed, attention to a gesture made while typing.

What does unite the experience of momentwriting is not the push to keep writing but instead an ongoing awareness of the breath. A person doing a momentwriting may very well stop writing down words for minutes at a time, but throughout that time, he or she is observing inhalation and exhalation.

Momentwriting allows people to track impulses and instincts, the inchoate and nonconceptual, and to honor them as part of their writing experience.

Writers use visual elements to record the no conceptual parts of a momentwrite (blanks are depicted through tabs or brackets; parenthesis or italics is used for material typically omitted from a freewrite, such as a tension in one’s shoulder or a scratchy sleeve).

In the below momentwriting, I’ve used brackets to indicate a lull where I’ve left the writing and backslash to indicate when I was aware of a physical sensation related to the posture and effort of typing without putting the sensation to words (on other occasions, words did arise for a physical sensation):
Reason why my impulse is to change pens mid-stream during a writing session—moving from Mont Blanc to Bic ballpoint to magic marker to dollar store mechanical pencil, from black to blue to pink to green—is to reflect (and capture) demarcate changes in time  [               ] that it is a new moment, that the phrase or idea is on a distinct flow in that intrapersonal babble passage. This tea tastes nice. An attempt to not be unified not hold writing together at this early stage of invention. /////  To do so suggests undue precautions taken for considerations given to an unknown and future audience. And that means departing from moment. ///// For a long time, I have wondered though without doubting or challenging or correcting it why I have this inclination. In a passage like this one where I don’t change pens—I’m pounding the keys too hard—state of flow “inspiration,” glued together with more continuation through voice, sense of non-stop moment, this tempo of getting it all down, that shoulder is hurting. Sometimes change in pen though a form of evaluation (did I forget to answer that email from M.) to highlight potential excellence—so to evaluate, remind myself of what to (later) pursue.
Like freewriting, it should navigate from the left to right margin: this preserves the intrapersonal rhetoric as a text, endowing it with the semblance of a more formalized piece of writing.  

A message reinforced by momentwriting is that all of a writer’s internal experience is acceptable: freewriting went to considerable lengths to send this message of acceptance, but momentwriting is possibly a more radical form of writing self-acceptance.

 * image from alchemyindesign

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