Archive for February, 2014

vp imageIt’s hard to believe I’m neck-deep in preparations for my third Spring Conference as Vice President of the Nebraska Writers Guild. To borrow a line from Scott Glenn in “The Hunt for Red October,” there’s still a million things that can go wrong with this stunt. I’ve had a challenging, exhilarating, frustrating, and satisfying ride so far. It’s a rare opportunity to be able to help run an organization with so much history behind it, and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Okay, almost anything. The Vice President chairs the Spring Conference and participates in the planning and execution of most of the Guild’s other events throughout the year. Endless planning, endless details. And just when you wonder if it was a good idea to take the job, you see the happy faces of people who attended as successfully run event. You see the pleasure and writing inspiration they take from it. And then suddenly all of the hours of work and obsessing become more than worth it. I’ve been able to meet people I never would have met if I hadn’t been Vice President: Smashwords founder Mark Coker, bestselling supernatural thriller author Jonathan Maberry, bestselling sci-fi author Hugh Howey, and the late literary agent Lee Hough, formerly of Alive Communications, just to name a few. I’ve made new friends I wouldn’t otherwise have. I’ve had the absolute privilege of working with the NWG Board, a group of insanely talented people, who are as kind and generous as they are gifted. My term ends in October of 2015. Soon, one of you will need to take my place. Anyone up for a challenging, exhilarating, frustrating, and satisfying ride?

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2-16 Elizabeth MackThe term “mindfulness” is everywhere right now. Go to your local bookstore, and you’ll find books on mindful living, mindful eating, mindful exercise, mindful parenting, mindful marriage – the list goes on and on. But what exactly is mindfulness, and how can it impact your writing – and your life?

At the beginning of one recent Mindful Writing workshop I held, participants were asked to take a moment and write down any concerns, stressors, or worries they had about attending, any obstacles they faced. I then led them all outside, asked them to scrunch up what they had just written, throw it in the trash, and walk back inside. But before they stepped in, I asked them to step back in with their non-dominant foot. Just this simple physical act forces us to stop and become aware of what we are doing. The physical act of throwing a list of worries away works to release the tension surrounding them. The entire mood of the room immediately changed; the energy level and excitement increased. We then got down to work.

Incorporating mindfulness techniques into our writing practice serves to open up a well of creativity with endless flow. For writers, incorporating mindfulness into our lives can help us overcome common hindrances to our writing, such as writer’s block, analysis paralysis, loss of motivation, and poor productivity – all too familiar problems writers face at one time or another. As writers, we tend to live in our minds, overthinking and overanalyzing each word. In one recent class, a student said she has a great idea for a story all planned out, but as she starts to write, she gets stuck after the first few pages. She can never finish anything. This writer is suffering from analysis paralysis. She’s judging herself and her talent as a writer before she and her stories have time to develop. Practicing mindfulness is a great way to overcome such destructive thinking.

For writers, it’s even more difficult to go to a place of no-mind, because we are always writing, if not physically, then mentally. Writers are really observers, so we are constantly thinking as we look and listen to what is going on around us. When writers are not observing, we are living in our heads, our minds busy with taking our observations and sculpting them into story plots and characters and dialogue. Most writers, I would argue, suffer from thinking exhaustion. And what happens when a writer’s mind is exhausted? Writer’s block. Taking a few moments for a short meditation – being still, breathing deliberately, slowing the mind – works to relax our brains long enough that often a burst of creativity erupts. Words become unblocked and begin to flow effortlessly. Writer’s block solved!

To be a mindful writer means to write from the heart, not from the mind. Write for the joy of writing, not for others. Ignore the inner critic. Avoid distractions and be fully present when you write. You owe it to yourself and your writing.

MindfulWriters.org A blog by Elizabeth Mack

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