The art of noticing: mindfulness & writing

This past weekend, I attended a small, intimate writing workshop on mindfulness and creative writing. I heard about it only the day before it happened and when I read the description, I felt pulled to go immediately.

Now, if you know me––you’ll understand that I calendar the shit out of my life. I am two to three weeks out at alllll times. So, to commit to something 24 hours before is mentally nearly impossible for me to do. But as I thought about my commitment to putting myself in the way of beauty, and making sure that I say “yes” to experiences that will truly help my higher self (and NO to ones that don’t), I knew I had to at least try to make it happen.

And, I did. Barely. I didn’t know what to expect – or even who to expect. But I put on my “extrovert” face and showed up.

The title of the workshop was “Diving into the wreck: Mindfulness and Creative Writing”.

And, dive we did.

I wanted to just share a few take-aways; things that really hit home for me and practices that I’d like to work more diligently on in the coming months as I work on my book.

1) The importance of noticing and authorizing yourself

Much of this section of the workshop came from Verlyn Klinkenborg’s “Several Short Sentences about Writing“, which I will promptly be purchasing. First, the act of noticing. Seems straight forward enough, right? But how much do we fly by without a second thought? Or, alternatively, how much do we notice and then try to attach meaning to?

The key is to ‘assign no meaning to what you notice’. To simply notice, and move on, with ‘cunning passivity’. It’s a little bit of a paradox––to make sure you’re open to noticing while at the same time, being passive at it….right? Yeah, that seems to be the crux of it all. But, in noticing we become present. And being present is one of the most amazing ways to understand ourselves and others. Layering on that idea, understanding ourselves and others is the only real way to write authentically.

Which brings me to:

2) Self-authorization.

YOU, (yes you, oh, and me) have the authority to write what you want. You have permission. And you can authorize yourself over and over through constant discovery (aka: noticing).

Consider this quote:

“When students are free to write anything they want, What they write first are pieces they hope look like something they saw published somewhere about subjects they believe are pre-authorized because someone has already written about them In pieces they hoped looked like something they saw published somewhere. A first piece of that kind is a tacit way of taking shelter under the authority of someone else’s perceptions. It’s also a way of saying, “I know you’re not really interested in what I think or notice.” But that’s the very thing the reader is interested in If your sentences allow him to be.”
― Verlyn Klinkenborg

When you notice––your perception, reaction, attachment, non-attachment, etc, creates YOUR story. Therefore, you are completely authorized to write about it.

You are the expert of your own truth.

This makes a lot of sense to me. Especially when I have a hard time writing about universal experiences. I really felt this when I was pregnant and becoming a mother. I wanted to write about it so desperately, but felt that because pregnancy and motherhood was so universal and had been done/felt by so many, I couldn’t possibly have anything new to say about it.

Of course, that wasn’t the case and as I committed to noticing the things about pregnancy and birth that were mine alone, the poetry came. And, I feel like it is some of my best.

This idea is also part of the idea of “diving into the wreck”. It’s dirty. It’s hard. But we have to do the deep dive if we want to find our authentic voice — and sometimes the layers are endless. Dark. Murky.

We listened to Adrienne Rich’s poem, Diving into the Wreck––which is one of my favorites. And when you listen to her read it, you can feel the power and the anxiousness of what it truly means to dive into your own wreck. It is SO BEAUTIFUL.

(We did some meditations and focused on the diving and ladder metaphors, which really triggered a lot for me. I’ll share my free-writing of those experiences in a later post.)

I have always felt that mindfulness, noticing, meditation, solitude, quiet — all of these things are conduits to great creative writing. (And yes, a cocktail or two can help). I try to use them as much as possible, but find it difficult when time is pushing at me. Falling into a real state of mindfulness, for me, takes time. I hope to carve out more time for it.

Additionally, I want to use more lucid states to tap into creatives parts of me.

Meaning, dreams.

You guys, my dreams have been a huge source of anxiety for the past two months or so. Throwing me into full on panic attacks in the middle of the night. Some which have taken hours to recover from. (That could be a whole other post). But, maybe tapping into that anxiety with a pen and paper could help. I can at least try.

If you’re not a writer — I think that these ideas can truly help with creative living in general. Hopefully, you can take something from them and notice some small (or really big) things in your life to understand who you are, better.

Notice more.
Be in the present moment.
Feel your feelings, and let them pass.
Dive into the wreck.
Live a life of curiosity.
Study YOURSELF.


All notes and references: credit to Melissa Jean at Lesley University in Nashville, TN who led the workshop:

**Melissa Jean is an Assistant Professor in the Mindfulness Studies masters’ program at Lesley University, where she also works as an Interdisciplinary Studies facilitator for Creative Writing MFA students. She teaches courses in academic writing, mindful creative writing, research methods, and mindfulness and the environment.**