Mindfulness and Writing

So, mindfulness and being present are a hot topic these days, what with Oprah crashing web servers as she presents teleseminars with the flat-liner Eckhardt Tolle.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with him he has written The Power of Now, and A New Earth, both of which were doing quite well in sales.  Then Oprah came along and catapulted him out into the stratosphere.

To be honest, I’ve never been able to get through either book.  They are a bit on the dull dry side.  I am fully willing to admit that I am probably missing something, but it seems to me as if he has a simple message that really could be told in about a page.

The message?  Be here now. 

Sound familiar?  It should.  It has been the mantra of many a self-help guru and Zen master for years.  And I get it, I really do.  The world takes on a somewhat magical and wondrous sheen when one is able to be fully present in the moment, even if you are washing the dishes or scrubbing the toilet. 

I’m a big fan of the whole be here now thing, except for one small quibble.  (My Zen friend Derek is now going to disown me and refuse to ever email me again. and that will be an awful tragedy but I will press on in the interest of all writers everywhere.)

You see, I get my best ideas for writing when I am being unmindful.  When I go out for a walk at the end of the day, I know I should be looking at all the cherry trees in bloom and the daffodils that are so perky and yellow in all the gardens.  But looking at them reminds me of the color of the dress my heroine wore in a scene earlier and then I get the perfect idea for how to end the chapter.  Or while I’m fixing salmon for dinner suddenly the perfect line of dialogue pops into my head. Or while I’m doing the crossword puzzle, I am suddenly aware of how many parallels there are between puzzling and writing.

So that is my problem.  Being mindful is not always so good for creativity and that leads me to like being mindful far less than I should. 

If anybody has a solution for this, I’d love to hear it.

Meanwhile, its time for me to go eat that salmon.

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14 Comments on "Mindfulness and Writing"

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Sumangali Morhall
Guest
03/26/2008 00:09
I read “The Power of Now” a couple of times, and got some vague inspirational something from it. But it always left me feeling there was some deep and complex truth in it that I’m not evolved enough to understand (thus the second reading). Not being fond of that left-out-in-the-cold at a party experience, I gave it to one of those charity book shops. As you say, the message is simple: Be Here Now. That’s accessible enough to anyone (in fact my mother’s golden retriever knows it better than I do). To me the rest is dry ice and dramatic… Read more »
David
Guest
03/26/2008 02:02

I get some of my most interesting associations when I am in ADD mode. But when I want to organize my photos or catch up on my mail I can always take medication. LOL.

DianeCA
Guest
03/26/2008 16:42

All this in the now stuff is really trendy these days. That and ‘the power of attraction’! I do believe that it is important to be aware of what you are doing today, because in reality its all we have, tomorrow is not for certain and yesterday is gone. I also believe that you are more likely to get what you want if you know what you want hehehe…however all this guru stuff is a quick fix for the boring old reality. Do what you need to do, plan, be patient and don’t take for granted what you already have!

DianeCA
Guest
03/26/2008 16:43

All this in the now stuff is really trendy these days. That and ‘the power of attraction’! I do believe that it is important to be aware of what you are doing today, because in reality its all we have, tomorrow is not for certain and yesterday is gone. I also believe that you are more likely to get what you want if you know what you want hehehe…however all this guru stuff is a quick fix for the boring old reality. Do what you need to do, plan, be patient and don’t take for granted what you already have!

Charlotte
Guest
03/26/2008 17:45
And I guess the ironic thing about all this is that when I am writing and fully engaged I am more mindful than at any other moment. When I come out of that state I am energized and happy, and basically in love with the world. This state of complete absorption is probably what Eckhardt Tolle and all the others are trying to get us to. Unfortunately, when I’m putting dishes in the dishwasher, it is way easier for my mind to wander to my novel than to focus on stacking the plates. Maybe I need some of that dry… Read more »
Dwayne
Guest
03/26/2008 22:57

You might think I am a fruit loop but you think better when your hands are moving. Brains react to different things for different people. Some can be sitting on the couch and ideas come one right after the other, some can be walking. When you are walking or cooking you are in your comfort zone, which allows your mind to expand and not hesitate to have new ideas.When you are out of your comfort zone, you are too focused on other things to let you mind expand. I really hope you understand what I am saying. Good blog.

Jen
Guest
03/27/2008 14:22

I agree–I think mindfulness can impair creativity. I mean, if you’re being fully present in the here and now, how are you supposed to put your mind where it needs to be (i.e., in the “world” of your book)?

Charlotte
Guest
03/27/2008 15:37

Exactly. Nobody ever figured out a plot by being mindful!

Sussan Marz
Guest
03/27/2008 19:27

I think it comes down to what your definition of mindful is. Of the mind perhaps? To me, the mind is like an iceberg – only 10 per cent of it is on the surface and that’s the conscious decision making part. When you get those creative bursts, that’s the stuff that’s underwater.

And that’s all the zen I have for the day.

(BTW, I enjoy reading your blog, but until now I’ve always been a lurker. Don’t you love it when strangers just drop by?)

Charlotte
Guest
03/27/2008 21:41

Thanks for de-lurking (un-lurking?), Susan, and your great comment. It is quite amazing to consider how much of our brain power lies in the subconscious, the place of dreams and creativity. And yes, any time I get one of those creative bursts, it is amazing to ponder where it came from.

rainer
Guest
03/28/2008 01:00

Hello, I like this blog.
To be in the moment means to me a feeling. The feeling will help to find the right mindset.
Nevertheless may be creative writing by puzzle is a zen way to the deeper layers of the soul.

Charlotte
Guest
03/28/2008 07:38

I like that thought that maybe creative writing is a deeper way to the soul in and of itself. Thanks!

Amarendra
Guest
03/31/2008 05:49
They way you have described “un-mindfulness” is exactly what masters recommend! It is just that the terminology is confusing. So, mindful or unmindful, let us see how the mind works. Can I tell my mind NOT to think of a monkey for a few minutes? Probably, impossible! As soon as you say “no monkey”, mind SEES the monkey! That is what FORCED mindfulness does:-) But, when zen masters say mindfulness, they mean RELAXED AWARENESS! So, when you are SIMPLY looking at “cherry trees in bloom and the daffodils”, or SIMPLY “fixing salmon for dinner”, then you are relaxed and really… Read more »
Charlotte
Guest
03/31/2008 07:03

Thanks for the explanation, Amarendra.

One question: what happens when I am being mindful, fixing my salmon and my creative idea pops into my brain? Then I switch over to thinking about my creative idea and I’m no longer mindful. Or is the idea to stop fixing the salmon, write down the idea, and then go back to the food preparation, fully present with it?

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