Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Mindful Writing Mantra and Essay [Excerpt]: Guest Post by Salem State University Student


Some Ideas are Fertilizers for Other Ideas

Billy Reddy

Billy Reddy is a senior at Salem State University in the Geography Department, graduating this semester. He'd call himself a lifelong learner and hopes to continue the pursuit of knowledge in his post-college life. 

...Seeing the impermanence and the constant flow from one state to another that I experienced when we practiced moment tracking in this course helped me to realize that some ideas or more, so their half-baked form are part of the process. 

I started to see that these disjointed fragments are like steppingstones in a river and can be used to get from one place to the next. I began to see the writing process as a lot like hiking: for both it is about the journey and the destination. Each small step is important to reach the peak of the mountain, just as all words, even the ones that don't make it to the published draft, are important and make up a greater whole. But for some reason we agonize over the words in front of us. 

Imagine, especially if you have ever been on a long hike, if we stopped every step on our way up the mountain, agonizing if it was the exact right step on the path. We would never get to the top if we hiked that way. So, what is it about writing that makes this method seem like a good idea?  

I'm not sure what it is that causes this problem: maybe it's audience or the monkey mind? Where do we get the idea that first and final form are one in the same? Where does this deep feeling of attachment come from? Why does it feel like the words typed out in from of me define who I am? Is each fumble at a word or first pass of a phrase an indicator of my intelligence?  

Why does it feel that this rough draft is a representation of who I am?  

When we write, it's like Michelangelo releasing David from the colossal slab. The difference here is that with writing comes an extra step in the process. The writer must first create the slab out of their words. For this end, a mindful writing mantra can be extremely helpful

A writing mantra can be used to guide the mind. We can use it to follow the flow of the never-ending storylines created by the monkey mind. the monkey mind once tamed becomes a raging and powerful river of content and ideas. 

You will notice this any time you try to quiet your mind. The moment you attempt to silence your thoughts many pour inand most of the time these thoughts are quite random and seem to come from nowhere. These new and often random thoughts are great for producing new content. One idea builds off the next, and soon you are down the rabbit hole of a new storyline. It is important to not be too critical of this content or the power of the monkey mind's creation of ideas will be lost. 

Much of my writing struggles occur at the innovation and production of content phase. I criticize every word, and it is a struggle to put any idea on the page. When I am in this headspace, it's not that I don’t have anything to say, but that I don’t think my ideas are good enough or they are not worded beautifully. I spend a lot of time second-guessing and looking for the perfect wording. Other times I may have an idea, but I have a challenging time cultivating it to maturity. 

In these times writing can feel like being lost in a labyrinth. Typically, when I start to feel the walls of the maze rise up around me, I freeze not knowing where to turn feeling overwhelmed. I may turn down one corridor and follow it for some time, but then inevitably I run into a dead end. 

Eventually, I become discouraged, stop, and give up on the idea. Now I have learned that writing takes time and often wandering around the maze trying to get an idea of where you are and where to go is part of the process. 

Exploration within the twist and turns of the mind can bring us back to the same place from an unfamiliar perspective: we just need to keep our patience and see where the labyrinth or our thoughts may lead us. We have to stay open to what arises in front of us. 

It is important to be open and accept what comes to us on this journey. Often when people have writer's block it is because they feel like the ideas that they have are not good enough to work with. To have brilliant and amazing ideas, you need to entertain some less-than-amazing ones along the way. 


 * calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hanh

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