MINDFUL WRITING PHENOMENON–TRAINING FOR A MARATHON by Lori M. Jones
“Just stick with it. What seems so hard right now, will one day be your warm up.” I came across this quote from a running Facebook Page, but I thought it could apply to writing as well.
A few years ago, I needed a goal to maintain my workout schedule. I’m a quitter when it comes to exercise, but I enjoyed running. My goal was to run in a 5K. No measly 5K, I signed up for Pittsburgh’s Great Race with 5,000 other runners. When I survived that first one, I scheduled the next and the next. Each one became easier than the previous one.
As a writer, I decided to implement the same plan for establishing a schedule and improve my writing stamina. I needed a goal. My first children’s book, Riley’s Heart Machine, was about to be published and I had just finished writing my first novel, but I wasn’t sure I had it in me to produce anything else. So, my first step was joining Pennwriters. Through this organization, I heard about a new group starting at the Wexford Eat ‘n Park called the Mindful Writers Group. They were to meet weekly, meditate and write for two to three hours, increasing the writing time with each meeting. I wanted to write, but meditate? I wasn’t so sure. Yet, I joined the group.
I was one of the original members who joined that March morning in 2011. After attending the inaugural session, I’ve never looked back. I discovered magic in meditation. It relaxed my mind, I felt connected with my heart center as I cleared my mind’s debris. Not only did I feel my body, heart and mind integrate but I also got to work for several solid hours with fellow Mindful Writers. Practicing Writing Meditation Method allowed me to set a specific amount of time aside for the sole purpose of writing and to train my mind to focus. This practice let my creativity ignite.
While running, I’m fully aware of my body – every achy toenail, every knee twist, every footfall striking against the concrete. As a novice runner, I was aware of my breathing, my panting and feeling my lungs strain. As I conditioned myself, my breathing became natural and less noticeable. Now, as I run my body and breathing work in tandem and my mind clears. Same thing happened with Mindful Writing. The more I practiced, the more natural it became.
On any race day – I run faster than I run on my own. The same phenomenon occurs during the Wednesday Mindful Writing sessions. The collective energy of the group all working toward the same goal of completing a work in progress – the same finish line – provides a fuel I was unable to experience on my own. I produce more in one day when I write with the Mindful Writers Group than I do during the rest of the week.
I find myself mentally preparing for my Wednesday writing sessions the way I physically prepare for a race during the days leading up to it. I plan out scenes, work out dialogue – stretching and hydrating my mind- in preparation to sit and produce pages of my work in progress. Since the day I joined Mindful Writers Group, I have written my second 95,000 word novel. I have finished a writing marathon!
You can’t wake up one morning and write a flawless novel, just as you can’t wake up one morning and sprint through a marathon. Running requires training the body, integrating your body, mind and spirit. The same practice is required with writing, clearing and conditioning the mind is a must. Then allowing it to work in harmony with your heart and spirit is essential.
For me, running the Great Race was a step in staying fit for life, and writing with the Group was a crucial step to becoming a Mindful Writer and successful author.
Lori–How true! I started running around the same time I joined Mindful Writers and I think your comparison is spot on. I like to think of daily writing and meditation as building writing muscle. Odd to think of creativity that way, but it has definitely been my experience. Thanks for sharing.
Nancy J. Hammer
Excellent article. As Coordinator of the Northern Tier Library Critique Group, I can say beyond a doubt that your writing has improved quite a bit in the last couple of years. You continue to be an asset to our group. Your experiences in both the world of running and Mindful Writing should inspire all of us to keep going even when the footfalls jar our creative self and the finish line is hidden over the hill.
Lori, the link between writing meditation and marathon conditioning and running is how I dredged up the nerve to begin writing a novel. Fiction writing was always too hard (it still is difficult for me). I watched my sister train for a marathon and decided if I could do something that hard, I could write a novel. It’s a perfectly apt comparison. I took nine months to train and finished the Dublin, Ireland, marathon. Of course, it took 9:23 hours but I never said I had to break records. I write snail-like, too.
This article has a lot of heart, too, warmth. I suggest you send it to “Writers Digest” and “Runners World.” Maybe tweak the article to more pointedly address each magazine’s mission. You’ve got a winner.
Lori, what a great piece! I am not a runner by any means, let alone a long distance runner, but I feel the same pain and gain about novel writing. I forget to look back and see how far I’ve come – thank you for reminding me!