By Katie Allen, MA
When you sit down to write, do you ever have thoughts like:
- These ideas aren’t original or interesting.
- I’m not good enough.
- I should wait until I have more energy or focus.
- Nobody’s going to like or read this.
- What’s the point?
Well, dear writer, you are not alone.
As common as these unkind (and untrue) thoughts are, that doesn’t make it any easier when they pull up a chair next to us as we sit down to write. And at the beginning of a new year, they often intensify and pelt us from every direction as ads remind us about how we can do better, be better, do more, be more in this new year–all of which increases the volume of those thoughts until our ears ring with them.
This can lead to setting down the pen or putting it off for another time, which may never come.
And then the world loses the gift of your story, your voice, and your wisdom.
Meditation can help reduce the intensity and power of these thoughts, but not in the “McMindfulness” way you might assume with images of mindful journals or mindful juice (the likes of which are unsurprising results of capitalism).
Rather, mindfulness—with roots that go back more than 2,500 years—has everything to do with awareness and its cultivation. Meditation is just one of many mindfulness practices you can do to grow and deepen your ability to see more clearly and respond more wisely.
And the good news for writers? Meditation has benefits that can address common challenges involving the inner critic and her litany of excuses and reasons to stay off the page.
Here are the top benefits of mediation–and how they can help your writing practice.
Benefit of Meditation #1: Quieting the Inner Critic
If you thought I was going to tell you that meditation will get rid of that inner critic, I’m sorry to disappoint. The reality is that she’ll likely always be around, but the good news is that you don’t have to let her take the wheel of your life. Instead, when you meditate, you’ll notice with time that she gets pushed to the passenger seat (still loud and annoying), then moves to the back (still a backseat driver), and finally, one day, to the roof of the car where she’s sitting with our luggage.
Through mindfulness meditation practices, we’re more capable of untangling the stories we tell ourselves. We identify less with our thoughts and are therefore less likely to grab hold of and believe in them.
This is so liberating. With the volume turned down on our inner critics through this practice, we can find more ease in our writing lives, from getting started all the way to polishing that ninth draft.
Benefit of Meditation #2: Less Anxiety
This improved relationship with our inner critic can lead to less anxiety over time, and so many of those unkind thoughts are rooted in just that: anxiety.
For a moment, imagine the worst your inner critic can throw at you–the messages that cause anxiety in your writing life. Maybe jot down a list of three of your top recurring thoughts.
Now, imagine those three thoughts have all just boarded a train. The doors shut, the wheels start to turn, and now you face a choice.
Do you get on the train with those thoughts and beliefs and let it take you away? Or do you stand on the platform and watch it pass by?
We have a choice. And when we’re practicing meditation, we’re going to have a greater sense of clarity and awareness that lead to us making the choice not to hop on the train as often. We’ll have the ability to pause rather than act on autopilot, and in that pause, we can respond instead of reacting without thinking.
When we realize that we are not the train or the thoughts, but the awareness of them, we aren’t taken on a ride we might not want to go on.
Over time, a meditation practice can grow your ability to notice and name your thoughts, which will help lead to letting go of them so that you can get back to writing.
That’s what we’re here for, isn’t it? To write and share our stories?
Join us for a special meditation for writers who struggle with their inner critic
If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness meditation, join me and Elyssar Press on February 10th for a session that’s geared toward writers who are struggling with their inner critic. Whether you’re new to the practice or a regular, all are welcome.
Katie is an editor at Elyssar Press and a teacher, retreat host, and student teacher of Mindfulness Meditation. To learn more, visit www.KatieAllen.net.