Category Archives: Writing

Mindfulness

During my career, both in industry as well as academia, I have experienced a constant stream of fads that came and went. When a new concept or idea comes onto the scene it either builds momentum until it eventually becomes part of mainstream practice or it fizzles out and declines. I confess that on occasions, particularly in my academic capacity, I have contributed to the creation of such ideas.

‘Mindfulness’ comes to mind (pardon the pun!) as an example. There was frenzied activity Reflectionsto associate mindfulness with many business activities such as coaching. For a while it became the next shiny tool to have in your coaching toolbox. Even leadership courses offered mindfulness for stressed leaders. As its star begins to wane the next ‘must have’ emerges to continue with the well-worn cycle of rise to fame, followed by decline.

Having opted to disassociate myself from the endless pursuit of the organisational Holy Grail, I was nevertheless once again drawn to mindfulness through a recent article. It was featured in The Psychologist, the journal published by the British Psychological Society of which I am a member. It started me thinking about what mindfulness might have to contribute to the process of creative writing. Before considering if such a contribution is not only a possibility, but also more importantly feasible, it is worth capturing the salient points of what constitutes mindfulness.

One of the gurus of mindfulness, John Kabat-Zinn, defines it as a way of being. It is much more than a clever technique or a good idea. However, for any behaviour or activity to be integrated to the extent that it becomes part of ones being takes practice. The essence of mindfulness is that of awareness. Our scientific, mainstream way of thinking has dismissed the conscious pursuit of awareness as a waste of time and such contemplation of ones navel as having no place in the ‘real’ world. Hitherto it has been viewed as an activity only indulged in by those who spend their time locked away from everyday life, such as monasteries and temples.

The awareness referred to by mindfulness is the ability to become conscious of what is unfolding from moment to moment without judgment, thereby being compassionate with yourself and others. The latter is important as mindful awareness without judgment allows us to free our thinking from a black and white mentality. This allows us to become aware of the subtleties in between such absolutes leading to an open mind willing to entertain endless alternatives.

That’s all very well, but what has it got to do with creative writing? Artists, including creative writers, can be harsh critics of themselves and their artistic output, striving and expecting perfection. RoseSelf-critical thoughts can be very powerful and once they gather momentum can be very difficult to stop, allowing us to become enmeshed in our thoughts and emotions. This can be a destructive downward spiral whereas mindfulness helps to create mental clarity. It provides us with the time and space to engage with our creative thinking and musings in a non judgmental way, accepting what emerges without the need for change or censoring. In an earlier posting I shared my thoughts on the tug-of-war between our creative and logical minds, both having equal value in the creative process. I am of the opinion that the practice of mindfulness allows us to transcend this combative state and allow both the logical and creative sides of our minds to work together harmoniously. It removes the need for either or and instead creates the space to approach our creative activity with clarity and a mental state of expectation.

Despite my cynicism of the mindless following of fad fashion, I have come to the conclusion that on closer inspection, all of the new stars that will either wax or wane draw on sound principles and years of research. The danger is that in our fast paced world we seek instant success or improvements and when it is not forthcoming the new idea is dismissed. We do not have the necessary patience and staying power to devote the time necessary in mastering a new skill or practice. However, mastery takes time and commitment and there is no such thing as a quick fix.

 

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New Year, New Beginnings

Although Goodnight Doll has now been published, Fireworksit is still very much part of my daily life. Having opted to become a self-published author, otherwise known as an indie writer, I now also face the daunting responsibility for the marketing of my book. What an education this is!

I find myself immersed in the words of wisdom from those that have already been successful and as you can imagine, there is a plethora of books, blogs and articles out there guaranteeing to catapult me to instant stardom and literary success. What is becoming very clear to me is that writing a book is probably the easiest part of the process, which doesn’t finish with the publishing of your book. The journey into indie writing has been exciting, frustrating, confusing, challenging but above all, empowering. I have also had the pleasure of connecting with a group of people around the world I would not otherwise have had the opportunity to get to know. Thanks to technology I can sit in the comfort of my study, or wherever I might find myself, and tap into the experiences of others willingly shared on the many blogs from around the world. What I have found hitherto is that indie writers are generous with their time and happily share their experiences with newbies like myself.

Apart from learning the art of marketing, pricing, the power of ratings and a myriad of other technical terms associated with publishing, I have also embarked on writing my next book. More about that over the weeks as it takes shape. I could never have envisaged when I took the first step on my journey of writing a tribute to Eugene and Pieter that it would lead me on the path towards a new career. Although writing has always been a part of my life, I am relishing the opportunity to dedicate my time to it. More importantly, I love the freedom it has afforded me. I write where, when and what I want and although being in control of the complete process is daunting, it is also immensely rewarding.

I have always thought of myself as a morning person and although I continue to get up fairly early and experience the world waking up around me with a cup of tea, I am experimenting with when is the best time of the day for the different tasks associated with writing. thumb_Scampy_1024A pattern is beginning to emerge. I check and respond to emails before breakfast, followed by marketing and research for my next book. Towards late morning, depending on the weather and where in the world I find myself, I go for a long walk to clear my head and allow thoughts to distil and take shape. My walking buddy is Scampy, my 9-year cocker spaniel who is also my loyal companion when I’m immersed in front of my laptop or desktop.

What is emerging is that my optimum time for writing appears to be in the afternoon. Thoughts and ideas have had the time to ferment during the morning (the French in me that loves a good wine!) and then bubbles to the surface. I am also conscious that if I am to achieve any success from my efforts, a certain amount of discipline will be necessary. Personally I work better when I have a goal or a deadline and I have currently tasked myself to write 2,000 words a day when I’m not travelling. My evenings are spent reading as I know the best way to learn to write is to read. My reading includes not only books, but also blogs of other writers I have discovered. Some of these are packed with inspiration, tips and advice or just a good read. My favourite is the weekly blog by Jamie Lee Wallace (nhwn.wordpress.com) whose writing makes me feel like a complete novice. She writes with an eloquent style and effortlessly weaves words together to form vivid pictures that inspire. Her blogs also reflect her passion for the art of writing, revealing an insight to her as a person. Well worth investigating.

I have no doubt that the pattern of writing, research, marketing and other activities of the indie writer I have not yet encountered, will evolve over time. In the meantime, I am enjoying the journey!