There’s this pervasive idea that when you’re writing a novel, everything else gets tossed on the backburner—including your mental health.
While bringing a book to life definitely requires consistency and focus, the belief that you must give it your undivided attention 24/7 is a myth. Actually, it’s more than a myth. It’s a mistake.
Writing benefits from the same kind of mental and emotional balance that all other aspects of your life need to thrive. Creating from a place of hurt or anguish may be cathartic at the moment and even inspiring, but that kind of chaotic energy isn’t sustainable in the long run. Just like you need to eat protein and hydrate when you’re training for a marathon, you need to nourish your creativity and give your brain a well-earned break when you’re writing a novel.
So, how do you achieve this equilibrium? Mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
Put simply, mindfulness is the practice of being present. It’s a way of training your brain to pay attention to the here and now and become more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. Without it, our brains are a cluster of unorganized neurons firing at a million miles an hour, distracted by the past and worried about the future.
When you can’t seem to concentrate, it’s hard to think, let alone put words on a page. Being constantly swept away by the relentless tide of unhinged and unhelpful thoughts makes it almost impossible to create meaningful work.
Mindful writing is about stepping back from the noise and allowing yourself to be at peace with what’s happening at the moment. It teaches you how to pay attention, capture your thoughts as they come and go, and ultimately use your most powerful tool—your imagination—to its fullest potential.
How can mindfulness and writing make you better?
I think we all can get behind the idea that a clearer brain that’s less bogged down by mental clutter is more conducive to creative endeavors. But mindfulness goes beyond that. It enables you to cultivate a deeper understanding of yourself and your work, leading to the kind of lasting clarity, inspiration, and focus needed for meaningful writing.
Here are just some of the ways mindfulness can help you become a better writer:
It can help you overcome writer’s block
When you’ve hit a frustratingly sturdy wall with your writing, the last thing that will help you break through is staring blankly at a computer screen. Stepping away from the situation and giving yourself the space to breathe can be transformative.
Think of it like hitting the refresh button on your brain. By calming your mind, you open up the pathways for fresh ideas to come through.
It improves your concentration
If you’re someone who tends to get completely swept away by the tiniest distractions, writing a book will be a long and grueling process. A regular mindfulness practice can train your mind to stay alert and attentive. The better you get at this, the easier it is for you to stay in the moment without getting pulled away by irrelevant thoughts or outside noise.
It reduces stress
We’re all living with some level of stress in our lives. And while a little bit of pressure can help spur creativity, too much of it will bog you down. Mindfulness is an excellent way to recover from the chaos and find your center again.
How to start practicing mindfulness
If you’ve avoided a mindfulness practice because you dread the idea of sitting in silence for a prolonged amount of time, I’ve got great news: you don’t have to! There are plenty of ways to cultivate mindfulness that are far less intimidating—and far less boring. I learned meditation as a teenager and have repeatedly found ways to return to it to support my professional, personal, and creative endeavors.
Here are my three favorite practices:
Does going off the deep end in your thoughts freak you out? You’re not alone. Guided meditations are a great way to get your feet wet in the world of mindfulness. Rather than sitting in silence, these audio recordings walk you through taking inventory of your thoughts and feelings and encourage you to be patient and kind to yourself.
There are guided meditations out there that cover every topic or struggle imaginable. But as a writer, I love this one from The Chopra Center on enhancing creativity.
Stream of consciousness writing
Learning how to be mindful on the page is a great way to get more in tune with your thoughts and ideas. When you sit down to write a stream-of-consciousness piece, the aim is to capture all those random thoughts that come into your mind as they come—without judgment or editing.
Let your ideas flow onto the page without inhibition; you’ll be surprised by how many insights come out of it. If you want to learn more about this specific practice, Writers’ HQ has a great mini-guide you should check out.
Sometimes, the best thing for a writer to do is to get up and move. Stepping away from your desk for a simple walk can be all you need to recharge your creative battery. But to make a true mindful exercise, you must walk without distractions: no podcasts, music, or talking to someone on your phone.
Instead, use this time to be present and focus on your environment. Pay attention to the sights and smells around you. Notice how the sun hits your skin, or the wind brushes against your face. After a while, you can take all that mental clarity back to your desk—and start writing with a newfound sense of purpose.
Watch this video on how
As you can see, there are countless ways to practice mindfulness. But it can still feel daunting to get started on your own. Luckily, there are plenty of resources out there for writers who want to learn more about the practice and how to incorporate it into their daily routine.
If you’re looking to learn more about mindfulness, here are some fantastic resources that I highly recommend checking out:
- This website dedicated to mindfulness with tons of articles and practice ideas
- This article from The Chopra Center on three ways to move your body and calm your mind
- This guide on mediation from The Chopra Center
- This video of how a group of editors deliberately incorporate walks into their workday as a way of unblocking their creativity
And, as always, if you’re looking for professional support as you write your novel, I’m here to help. Book a free consultation to see how I can help you get your book out of your head and into the world.