How Mindfulness and Meditation Make you a Better Writer

how mindfulness and meditation make you a better writer

Touching into human experience with bravery and vulnerability…there’s an edge you come up against and it is your own. Sitting with the fullness, the jagged shards of emotions, of situations, not ducking and dodging the searing missiles pointed at you (self-inflicted missiles, but that’s what you’ll uncover in meditation).

Life – and the books we write about it -are filled with anger and uncommunicative bosses, panic and aging family, that fender bender and chasing dreams with uncertain outcomes. When you bring meditation and mindfulness into the mix, you find out over and over you are the missile and you learn how to dismantle it.

So how does it make you a better writer?

Remember in high school when you learned the basics of conflict in a story?

  • Person vs. Person.
  • Person vs. Nature.
  • Person vs. Self.
  • Person vs. Fate/God(s).
  • Person vs. Society.
  • Person vs. the Unknown/Extraterrestrial (pretty sure that one didn’t exist when I was in school, but so happy it does!) 

No matter which conflict is most evident in a story – and it doesn’t matter if it’s a novel, memoir, or business book – the reality is it always includes Person vs. Self.  That’s the crux.

You always have to contend with your own inner conflict/editor/narrator/devil and angel. Always. And it’s all about how you relate to whatever situation you are in. So do your characters. So do your readers. If they aren’t wrestling with their perception and struggles, it’s a pretty flat read.

Those other bad boys – nature, fate, society, ET, people- are flavors to add into the recipe. You get to play with them and spice it up, add texture. It’s like “Here are your eggs. You can scramble, fry, poach, braise, bake. You can add some hot sauce – I prefer Cholupa or Texas Pete’s, ketchup, salt and pepper, herbs de Provence, hollandaise.” But in the end, eggs are eggs and they are what is for breakfast. You can’t outrun yourself and neither can your characters.

Have you heard this advice in fiction? “Always give your characters more than they can handle. Turn up the heat.” Your reader wants to see what they are made of and if they can relate.

In personal development, self-help, business, and other types of nonfiction, the writer is saying, “Hey you’ve got this. Don’t doubt yourself. Try these tools. Keep learning.” Your reader wants to see if they can take the prescription from the book and make changes to their own life.

You as the author better have done the work on yourself or be willing to if you want your readers to trust you. For instance, if your character suddenly develops a backbone, there better be some context to help the reader know Josephine didn’t know she had it in her and here’s how she feels about it. You’ve got to play analyst and help the reader know Josephine’s experience of it, some little flashes of insight – into her confusion and her sudden confidence. Otherwise, the reader thinks you cheated.

Mindfulness and meditation are lens‘ that, when combined with writing, give you a direct path to insightful creativity. Whatever you are writing about – sweet, neutral, painful, pretty, unpleasant, dull, satisfying – is so much richer if you’ve really experienced it . Mindfulness calls you to bring your full awareness and sense to each experience – and how much better will your descriptions be or your character arc’s when you’ve really paid attention to your life? “The sun is shining, baby, and it is HOT, and sweat is uncomfortable and that is because of X.” Why is it so bad? Or so good?

Don’t be afraid to dig a little, uncover, shed some layers of BS. It certainly makes it more interesting than saying, “I hate to sweat.” Why? It’s not that you have to work in every mental/conscious detail but know why your character hates to sweat.

Then you can really turn up the heat on them. And you can really take them on a journey of discovery.

And how do you find that out? Peel the onion and find out why YOU hate to sweat. Let’s look closely at things and take our readers on an adventure of transformation.

No matter how the story turns out – whether they beat the zombies or they found the love of their life or the entrepreneur finds success, it has to be about a triumph over Self somehow to give your story sticking power.

You can get through life or a book without much character development, but to what end? And how much more interesting is it if the antagonist isn’t just the bad guy – but someone with their own delusions and illusions the reader gets to get a peek at?

Mindfulness isn’t about making these things wrong or less than. And a mindful writer can use that to make real impact.

The world isn’t better if the bad guys lose or go away. It is better when they wake up and stop causing damage.

The book isn’t better because the bad guys lose but because the protagonist transforms.

And transformation happens when the Writer has an intimate understanding of what that looks, feels, and smells like then puts into a delicious form.

Be well and keep writing!


Photo by Daniel Mingook Kim on Unsplash