Writing: The Enemy Of Mindfulness?
I meditate, but only for 10-minute stints, and I don't do it every day. I’m a very sporadic and inconsistent yogi. I've never been to an ashram and probably never will.
Yet, I claim to live a (sorta) mindful life. I can sit in traffic or get horribly lost and turn these mishaps into a positive--something I could never have done when I was in my 30s or even in my 40s. I can assure myself: “This (detour) is letting me see places I’d never have seen otherwise.”
Or, two weeks ago, I sat in gridlock on the way to meet writer friends on Cape Cod. Rather than yanking on my steering wheel to cut across three lanes of traffic to exit (as some of my fellow Boston drivers did), I sat back to enjoy the Sunday-morning radio programs on National Public Radio.
So to some degree mindfulness—the ability to just live in and enjoy the present moment—has made my middle aged life much richer and, I hope, healthier.
So has writing.
So why, then, do writing and mindfulness often play against each other? Why does one (writing) undo what the other (mindfulness) achieves?
For answers, maybe I need to look no further than my online calendar and all its reminders for future submission dates for maybe- or future publications or bylines.
So here's the biggie question about writing and mindfulness: How much does this future-ness, this possibility or promise of selling or placing our work influence or diminish the actual work itself?
I'm not proud to admit this, but there are days when my writing life, my whole sense of my career and life success, is governed by that calendar and what might arrive in my email in-box.
To my credit, I often use Macfreedom to block my WiFi service and the possibility of digital distractions. My household phone could ring off the hook before I’ll race to pick it up. At home and at work, I am good at prioritizing, categorizing and scheduling my responses to non-urgent emails.
But hands up, now. How many of us have instantly stopped what we're doing—including writing—to open and read an email from an acquisitions or magazine editor? I know I have. I've even been known to pull my car into a roadside car park in the hope that this is an email that tells me that, at some future date, in some magazine's future issue or a publisher’s upcoming list, my essay or manuscript will get published.
Now, wouldn’t this kind of future-tense (or should that be 'tense future?') thinking get me permanently disbarred from the mindfulness club?
But wait! There's more.
I’ve urged my writing students to shut out their inner critics to just write, write, write. I’ve begged them not to stop the creative flow to go trawling back through the story or essay to look for potential spots to edit or change. "Write onward!" I say. And, in that moment, I actually mean it.
But wait! It gets worse.
I’ve facilitated journal-ing and wellness writing workshops where I’ve assured the participants that, other than the scratch of pen on paper, there should be nothing else in this precious writing moment.
So I renege on my own mindfulness promises, When I do, I know that I cheat myself and my writing.
I've got to find a way to fix this. Really.
As a writer, how do you shut out the world—including the publishing world—to write, write, write and be mindful, mindful, mindful?