It’s no secret that we writers spend a lot of time living inside our heads. We write at stop lights and on park benches, in waiting rooms and sometimes at the movies. We may not be putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard every moment, but on that little “screen” tucked neatly between our ears, we’re crafting dialogue, untangling knotty plot twists and musing about our main characters. It’s part of the process for most of us. I know that’s true for me.
Maybe that’s why most writers are often introverts. It’s not that we’re shy necessarily. Perhaps it’s simply that we’re content with our own company. And, at least it seems, we’re happy to sit back and observe. But I’d like to gently suggest that we may not be the great observers we think we are. With all of this writing going on inside our heads throughout the day, it’s easy to miss living in the present. How often do we fail to see or truly hear what’s happening in the here and now, while we’re imagining what our heroine will do next on a far-flung planet or trying to come up with a catchy title for that magazine article?
Mindfulness is a practice I was introduced to through a physician at the health system where I work. In its simplest form, for me, mindfulness means taking time to slow down, to breathe and to “be” in the moment. It’s like snapping out of a daydream, wide-eyed and aware of what’s happening in the here and now.
How does cultivating mindfulness benefit me as a writer? It’s no surprise that living in the moment makes me a better observer. I can soak up details–the smell of garlic and onions sweating in the pan, the peculiar way a receptionist wears her eyeliner, the sound of scrapping chickadees, the rhythm of two teen girls jabbering in the backseat or the sharp tang of Greek yogurt with pomegranate. I’ve come to understand that being present for these little details helps me become a stronger writer, and more importantly, a more avid fan of life.
How about you? Would you mind giving it a try?
Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t). ~ James Baraz