How Mindfulness Can Transform The Way You Write a Novel
A webcast for National Novel Writing Month
Alexandria Peary, MFA, MFA, PhD
Below you'll find info on methods covered during the November 10, 2021 webcast on mindful writing. I've compiled the locations on this blog.
Step 1: Grounding yourself in the writing moment
7 Mindful Breaths: See the July 19, 2020 post on this blog, "20 Mindful Breaths During COVID-19"
Although this post focuses on mindful breathing to cope with pandemic stress, the same principle applies. Reduce the number of described breaths to as few as seven at the start of your NaNoWriMo writing day.
Yoga for Hands: iFor full version of this method, see the blog post, "Yoga for Hands" posted on April 7, 2020, or September 11, 2012.
Abbreviated Yoga for Hands: Instead of a full body yoga scan, stick just to hands. Start with a brief seated meditation for about one minute. With a gently tall posture, hands on your knees, breathing in, think to yourself, “Here.” Breathing out, think to yourself, “Now.” When your mind wanders away from attention to the breath, gently guide it back.
Next, move your hands to your keyboard or to your pen/pencil/notebook and begin to freewrite. The topic of this freewrite is the sensation of your fingertips touching the keys or holding the pen/pencil. Do this for a minute. Try to notice moment-to-moment changes in the sensation of writing or typing, continuing to watch your breathing.
Next, make the topic of the freewrite noticing how your bones are moving inside your writing fingers. Watch the finger bones' complex activity. Perhaps a simile or metaphor occurs for that activity: what does it remind you of? Continue to watch your breathing. Extend your attention to your palm and the back of your hands as you write. Then turn to your novel, asking yourself, "What's on my mind right now about my novel?" Switch the topic of your freewrite to whatever surfaces in response to that question.
Summoning Audience Ghosts: See "Make a Caricature of a Tricky Audience," posted on January 18, 2014, on this blog.
Abbreviated Ghost Hunt: See my TEDx talk for background information on this desk meditation: How Mindfulness Can Transform the Way You Write Wait for a moment when you find yourself procrastinating or even slightly hesitating with a piece of writing. Watching your breath, freewrite 250-300 words to the following questions:
-Is there anyone “watching” you right now, reading your writing over your shoulder?
-Who is this person (an audience ghost could be a composite of several people)?
-What’s the audience ghost’s effect on your writing experience?
-If the audience ghost is unhelpful, what’s one measure you could take right now to control their proximity?
Purpose: To become less ensnared by mindless self talk. To better see how we talk ourselves into believing our in-progress writing is already visible to a future reader(s). To take measure to notice our actual writing circumstances—its distance from time and space from future readers.
Step 2: Observing the Present Moment to Create