"Mindful writing" is not very special. It requires no unique skills, no advanced training, and no superior intelligence. It is possible for someone to begin “mindful writing” who is just starting a writing practice, just as easily — and, in fact, maybe more so! — than the well-seasoned writer who has already published books and achieved fame. One thing that makes “mindful writing” different from other writing approaches, none of which I am here to disparage, is that it offers tools that are also completely applicable in your regular life. Because of this, you can practice mindful writing even when you are not writing, for being aware of the actual experience you are having in this present moment, and learning to notice but not give into the array of criticisms, judgments, and other challenges one is sure to meet in the writing practice, is surely something that anyone, doing anything, benefits from.
Despite this, I don't teach (nor have I created) an “official” mindfulness practice for students to use as mindful writers. There are far too many deeply skilled and wise teachers out there — and the books they have written — for all of us to learn from. And while I do believe that establishing and maintaining a formal mindfulness practice will benefit your mindful writing practice immeasurably, my primary goal is to help my students establish and maintain a writing practice, using the tools of mindfulness to work with the obstacles that arise, both internally and externally.
A mindful writing practice is deeply personal. Just as no two living beings — even if they are in the exact same place at the exact same time — see and experience events in the same way, so to is it true that for however many mindful writers there are, there will be just as many mindful writing "practices." This is the beauty of mindfulness in any pursuit, as it helps us realize what is truly unique to us and how we can cut through the many layers of delusion that our conditioning has helped create in order to experience the kernels of truth of any given moment. Still, that “truth” will not be the same for everyone, and the ways in which one writer accesses it may differ greatly from the ways another does. This can present a challenge, as we are all so hungry to know the “right” way to go about things, clamoring to get the latest “tricks of the trade” and approaches to working with everything from lack of motivation and writers block to setting up the perfect writing space and reading the “right” books to inspire and guide us. This is why a mindful writing practice is so beautiful, for the key teaching is so simple: the only person who truly has these answers is you. Period.
Again, this is not to say that there are not dozens of amazing ways that you can find inspiration, ideas, tricks, and ways to contend with the common, and even uncommon, challenges that all writers face. But no matter what you choose — be it referring to the suggestions of one best-selling author on how to write dialogue or another on the perfect type of coffee to drink while writing — what you must recognize is that if it works, it works because you figured out that it works and then continued to do it. It’s not the idea, or the person who came up with it, that matters most: it’s the discovery. As you become more and more mindful of what helps you when you are stuck, inspires you when you are frustrated, or revives you when you are sick, tired, or lethargic, then you begin accumulating more and more resources to call upon when you notice these situations.
I cannot emphasize enough that the most important person in your writing life is you. This is the person who is willing to put in the work, who is learning how to recognize his challenges and, at the same time, to make sound and helpful decisions about how to face, move through, or even not deal with them on a given day. It is you that is responsible for knowing the resources available to you when you need a lift, or a guide, or something to calm you down so you can focus. You who decide the days when you need to adjust your practice, extend it, or skip it. It is you, and only you, who experiments with different locations, types of paper, background music, etc. And, most importantly, it is you who cuts through all the distractions and recognizes when the voices in your head are those of your true self, which only wants the best and the most for you and your writing, or one of the myriad manifestations of the ego, the conditioned voices you have accumulated since childhood, who all seem to have some opinion about why you are simply not cut out for this type of effort, and, oddly (or not), often seem to resemble some of the very same voices you have heard from real people in your life.
This approach may seem very selfish and self-centered. Well, isn’t all of life that way? Are we not only able to experience the world through the lens of the self, the various personas that we have invented (unwittingly, I might add) in order to feel comfortable in all the roles we must play in life? Who, if not us, is perceiving the world through the sense doors of sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste? Who, if not us, is “diagnosing” every tiny thing that happens in our day, formulating opinions, judgments, likes, dislikes, reactions, and all the rest? Who, if not us, is in charge of the life we experience at its most basic level?
Be careful here, though. I’m not speaking of the actions we undertake as part of our roles in life, be they domineering or servile, of which we are also in control. Here, I’m speaking of the actual experience of doing these things. Only we are involved. Only our bodies and minds bring the world into being. And only we know what is actually happening, and in which direction these happenings are pointing our lives.**
The truth is that if we really want to write, we must agree to take full responsibility for everything that happens along the way. We must endeavor to train ourselves to balance the energies of our inner warrior, sage, and healer, knowing when to call upon each, and for what reason. Above all, we must learn to trust ourselves as our greatest guide, accept that no one will reveal the "exact" answers to us at all points along the journey. That is why mindful writing is pretty simple: one need not venture too far, nor does he or she need anything "special" to practice. It's all there for us already. We just have to notice it, and respond to it. Very simple. But not very easy.
**I also do not wish to debate alternative realities, out-of-body experiences, collective consciousness, etc. I do not have any experience with these things, and thus have no opinion either way about their benefit or detriment to the human experience. What I am interested in is the human condition, on this plane of existence, as experienced through the sense doors and translated into thought and action and then categorized as something a truth or a falsehood. This is the plane on which the majority of us experience the world, and certainly the one within which we write.