I'm a writer and a teacher. I write pretty much every day. But just a few short years ago, I was hardly writing at all, except emails and reports for work. But I wanted to. But I could never seem to get around to it.
A few years ago, it was all I could do to write two or three times a week, for ten minutes at a stretch.
Contemplative writing practice has changed that. It's changed my relationship to writing.
I've always believed I "hate writing, love having written."
Contemplative writing practice showed me that this is not, in fact, true.
It turns out that what I've actually hated all these years is not the struggle with the blank page, but the relentless struggle with my inner editor.
As in, I'm trying to get a first draft done, and she won't leave me alone.
Contemplative writing practice has given me tools to appease this inner editor, who worries about me constantly. The poor thing is exhausted with trying to get me to finally decide about the Oxford comma and other such grammatical conundrums. She also worries about schedules, deadlines and keeping my commitments.
My inner editor seems to love nothing more than to berate me about my (lack of) writing skills and my other unfortunate shortcomings.
Believe it or not, I actually don't find this helpful to my writing process.
But the more I ignore her or try to shut her down, the more she worries. The more she worries, the louder she gets, until I literally can't hear myself think.
Contemplative writing helps me notice when the critic needs attention. Sometimes it's no more than that: I just need to turn my attention to her, acknowledge that she's there and tell her it's OK, I hear her, and I'll be needing her when I get to editing.
Calming the inner critic is only one of the many benefits of a mindful writing process.
The gentle curiosity of the approach I use in writing practice has also seeped into other parts of my life.
In my life as in my writing practice, I've been learning to go easier on myself, forgive myself when I mess up, let go of things more easily. I've learned to talk to myself more kindly. In life as in writing practice, I feel more centred, more grounded, more resilient.
Writing, after all, isn't separate from life.