“Right Mindfulness: Write Thought” is the old tagline for this blog. In this post from a few years ago, I explain what it means…
I thought it was about time I explained the tagline of this site: Right Mindfulness: Write Thought is a Buddhist pun based on two of the steps on the Eightfold Path – namely Right Mindfulness and Right Thought. The tagline stands as a kind of mission statement for this site, but also a reminder for me and my writing. So what does it mean?
The Eightfold Path is a system of interconnected teachings and practices that form the basis of Buddhist practice designed to help you overcome stubborn mental habits that cause suffering. Right Thought means being aware of what’s going on in your head and freeing yourself from negative thought patterns; while Right Mindfulness is about focusing your mind in the present moment. Obviously, you can’t do one without the other, and the rest of the steps on the path are essential too.
But what does mindfulness have to do with writing?
If you’ve ever tried to write while your mind has been scattered and bouncing off the walls, you’ll know the answer to that. Mindfulness creates a space in your mind, clears away distractions, and helps you to focus. And if your mind is like mine, trying to write without being mindful is an exercise in futility 😉 .
Mindfulness promotes self-awareness and helps to shut down the inner critic that can cause so many problems while you’re writing – or trying to write. It can help you push through fears and limitations and provide a way to connect with parts of yourself that have got lost in the hustle and jumble of life.
If you want to find your voice as a writer, you have to go inwards and get still enough to listen – not just to the still small voice of your intuition, but to your shadow voices, the parts of yourself denied or forgotten since childhood. This is where you’ll find your hidden gold, the stuff you can transform into new ideas and creative breakthroughs. You may have to wade through some shit to find it, but mindfulness can help you go deeper without getting hijacked by the darkness.
So many thoughts, so little time
According to research by the National Science Foundation we have up to 60,000 thoughts a day, most of which are repetitive and tend towards the negative end of the spectrum.
I haven’t been able to verify this as true; there’s nothing on the NSF website. It’s one of those ‘facts’ you find online. The truth is: who knows? People probably think it’s true because it seems about right, as long as you include unconscious activity in there somewhere.
I know my own thoughts are relentless and repetitive and boring as hell if I stay on the surface of my mind. When I try to write without connecting with my deeper self, the results are never good. If I dive in and start to write without focus and an inner holding space, what comes out is noise. It’s like stepping into an echo chamber inside my head with all the usual suspects shouting at once.
It is possible to write through all that noise and if you keep going for long enough, eventually it quietens down and you enter the flow state where the writing just happens.
Unfortunately, my mind seems to contain an awful lot of noise! I’m too good at generating pointless waffle and worries. And that’s where mindfulness comes in. Even one minute of focus is better than none, but ten is better still. An hour? Bliss.
This is all I know: the biggest impediment to my writing is me.
In fact, that applies to my whole life, but I know that if I want to write well and not waste my precious time on prattle and nonsense, then I must practice mindfulness. It’s not a choice, it’s a necessity.
Mindfulness gets me out of my own way. I can’t write without it.
You can find out more about Right Mindfulness and Right Thought and the Eightfold Path here