I recently read poems, short stories and essays I wrote in the past. I have to say, while there are some honest, poignant gems, many pieces are just awkward, uncandid and innocuous. Many feel like I left something on the table, or on the paper or screen, so to speak. Though I could feel the intention in between the words, the words themselves felt wrong and foreign, as if written by someone else. Or rather, like something else wrote them. They come off passionless and humorless, lacking personality. I wasn’t writing mindfully and honestly.
I have generalized anxiety, so when my mind catches a passive thought, especially a negative thought, I tend to follow it with the delirious fervor of your typical neurotic. Through mindfulness, I’m learning not to fight the thoughts—or judge myself for having the thoughts—but let them come and go like passing trains.
I am a frequent rider. But, once in a while, I stay on the platform, I stay present. I remember that these passive thoughts are not necessarily what I believe. They come from somewhere inside me, but I did not conjure them willingly. I can thank, or not thank, my subconscious for that. Passive thoughts think themselves. I only believe that I believe these thoughts because, well, they came from my somewhere inside my lovely brain.
So, it should not surprise me that if I am not fully present when I am writing, my essays and poems can reek with these unrealized thoughts, reading, at the least indifferent or banal, and at the most disingenuous. I am just writing down my thoughts, which is fine in a journal, but not a story, not an essay and certainly not a poem which must have feeling and conscious truth behind them to feel alive on paper and screen.
“The words you say, never seem to live up to the ones inside your head”. click to tweet
–Chris Cornell (The Day I Tried To Live)
It’s obvious to me now that in these mindless pieces of writing, I wasn’t as connected to and present with what I felt when I wrote as I try to be now. I wasn’t writing mindfully. I didn’t dig deep enough to hit what I felt; I didn’t edit. I stopped at what I thought, and by extension, what I thought I should write instead of what I wanted to write. I guess humans do this all the time. We more often than not believe what we think instead of what we feel. We do or say what we think we should, rather than what feels right for us.
If that’s how we are in our everyday, non-writing lives, that’s how our writing will read. Writing is not an extension of the self, it is an expression of the self, of how we see things, people, the world. When I wrote many of those awkward and disingenuous pieces, I was not my truest, or best self. I was lost. I was whole, but I was lost and in perpetual fear of myself. Afraid of who I was, who I wanted to be, how others saw me. I’ve grown in leaps and bounds since then and am certainly less afraid of myself, more certain of who I want to be, and less concerned about how others see me…though not yet completely. Self-acceptance is a life long process.
Writing is not an extension of the self, it is an expression of the self, of how we see things, people, the world. click to tweet
Now, when I’m mindful when writing, I can actually “see” and feel myself struggling to write what I mean to say. There is a tug of war between my fear and my confidence, between my inner-child self and my adult self. Before I was mindful and self-compassionate, I would easily give in to the terrified child. I am an intense, highly sensitive and empathetic person. My feelings are strong, and can be overwhelming. I “feel” everything all the time. I own this now. So, as I watch these scenes like outer mind-body experiences, I work hard to quiet my fears so that those determined defense mechanisms don’t swap what I want to say with easier to consume–banal and unemotional–detached thoughts.
Writing Mindfully and Honestly
I want to be an honest writer whether I’m writing about myself or how tea cozies became all the rage in 19th century England. If my intention is to only “seem” like I know what I’m talking about and to “seem” good at writing, well, my writing can only “seem” worth reading, until someone actually reads it.
To write mindfully and honesty I must stay connected with myself. I must stay humble, self-aware, self-compassionate and always circle back to my personal values. Otherwise, what’s the point of writing…or pursuing anything of meaning for that matter?
I refuse to become one of those writers who regurgitates proverbs, recycles ideologies, or tells hackneyed stories. The world already overflows with mediocrity. I will not add to the pile.
So, I am working on writing mindfully, honestly, and with deep intention. I stay hungry everyday and work hard everyday to become a stronger more honest writer by talking down my defenses so they don’t block my truth from escaping into my work. I’m allowing my truths to speak through my work.