Many of my author friends are surprised when I rell them about the many ways meditation can help writers with both their life and their work.
After all, at first glance, meditation and writing don’t seem to have much in common. One is a spiritual health practice in which we focus the mind. The other is our art and job, in which we put words on paper. How can they possibly relate to one another?
Well, for starters, meditation can increase your creativity, make you more imaginative, and help you to focus so you’re productive at the keyboard.
There is also evidence that meditation helps with writer’s block. Writer’s block is a condition connected to the frontal lobe. And we know from research that meditation improves the activity of the frontal lobe. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect meditation to help with writer’s block, and this is something Ive seen for myself when I get writers block halfway through writing a chapter, meditate, as hey presto, problem solved.
As a professional writer (journalist and novelist) and a meditation instructor, naturally, I have a great deal of experience using meditation when writing. So let me show you how to do precisely that.
Guided Meditation For Writers
If you are brand new to meditation, you will want to read my beginners guide to meditating at home first.
In the guide (above), I share the best ways to meditate, and some secret tips that I’ve personally learned. They will help you to meditate better.
Once you’ve read the link above, follow these tips. And you might also enjoy these mindful writing exercises.
1: Take a break
Depending on the type of writing you are doing, your mind could be full of information. For instance, when Im doing research for an article or book, I might be reading non-stop. I like to take frequent breaks to avoid information overload. During my break, I spend five minutes doing mindful breathing.
2: Meditate standing or moving, not sitting
Most writers spend a long time at the computer. And sitting for too long is not healthy. Therefore, instead of doing seated meditation, you might like to try standing to meditate or doing movement meditations like tai chi and qigong. If standing, stand with good posture and a straight but relaxed spine and simply focus on your breath.
3: Use a timer when working
Time is one of the biggest distractions in meditation. When I’m meditating on a break, I might be tempted to keep eyeing the clock. This won’t help me meditate. Instead, I set a timer for fifteen minutes. You could use an app like Headspace or Calm, but research from Harvard Medical School shows that meditation apps are ineffective.
4: For focus, just breathe
Simplicity is the key to meditation. Your mind has been active and productive while you were working. Now it’s time to slow down and focus on something simple.
Close your eyes and watch your breath moving through your body. You might find it helpful to count breaths or to label the movement of your breath, “Breathing in,” “Pausing”, “Breathing out”, and so on.
If you practise breathing meditation (or any “focused attention meditation”) before editing you will find it much easier to spot those grammar and spelling mistakes.
Note that this is a highly effective meditation for productivity and focus. However, it is not helpful for creativity. To improve your creativity, see the next step.
5: For creativity, do “open meditations”
When I want to focus, I meditate on my breath. But when I want to be more creative at the keyboard, I use “open meditations” instead.
Open meditations are techniques in which we do not focus on one thing but instead open the mind to everything. Simply let the whole world come pouring in. Do not judge. Do not think. Just let the world flow through you as you focus on your senses.
Research by cognitive psychologist Loenza Colzato in 2012 shows that “Open Meditation” is the best type of meditation for creativity.
5: Open your eyes gently
When you are ready to finish your meditation session, slowly and gently open your eyes. I often instruct my students to count down from five to one as they open their eyes. This helps us to stay mindful as we return to our normal state.
6: Use the Four Foundations of Mindfulness
To stay mindful, use the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. Be mindful of your thoughts, your emotions, your actions, and your intentions. This will help you to stay mindful while writing.
Benefits of meditation for writers
To illustrate the value of meditation for writers, let me share a personal story. It’s a time when I personally needed to use some meditation exercises to help me with my novel.
Helped me finish my novel
I was working on a young adult fantasy. My head had been buried in my manuscript. I’d been writing non-stop for ages. Suddenly I realised that I wasn’t thinking clearly and that I was working in the fashion of an automaton, punching the keyboard without thought.
I needed to clear my mind.
So, I sat for twenty minutes meditating. Specifically, I was doing “Open meditation”. I was simply observing the present moment through my senses, which research shows heightens creativity.
After a mere twenty minutes, I suddenly realised a crucial plot point in my novel, a twist that made the entire 75,000-word manuscript significantly stronger.
I can honestly say that I would never have realised the change I needed to make had I not meditated. By meditating I opened my mind to new ideas. And one of those new ideas totally fixed my novel.
Meditation cleared my mind, made me look at my novel through fresh eyes, and gave me the insight I needed to finish my work.
That’s just one of the benefits: it helps you come up with new ideas. Specifically, “Open meditation” exercises the “Creativity Network” of the brain. That is, the Salience Network, Default Mode Network, and Executive Network.
It helps me write & edit articles
If I’m not coming up with new stories, and instead I’m working on something factual (or editing), I’ll do a Focused Attention Meditation (FAM). That is, I’ll meditate on one object. Sometimes this is the breath, sometimes a sound, and sometimes a mantra.
Research by Katherine MacLean of the University of California, Davis shows that FAM increases concentration and reduces errors. Hence why I do it before editing or doing factual work.
As writers, sometimes we need to reconnect with the present moment, to bring the mind back to now before we can continue writing. This is when meditation comes in handy.
When thoughts, feelings, and other mental phenomena consume us, we can use meditation to pull ourselves back into the present moment.
Mindfulness is an absolute gem for writers. Not only does it train the brain, but it boosts our writing skills too.
Whether you’re a professional novelist or an avid amateur writer, you can gain a lot from meditation.
Giving Is Caring
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison