15 Exercises In Mindful Writing And Yoga For Writers
Have you ever tried mindful writing meditation exercises? How about some yoga-writing exercises?
In my experience, they are absolutely brilliant ways for writers to boost creativity and to increase focus.
Plus, they are tons of fun.
I am constantly surprised by how closely writing and meditation relate to one another.
Meditation makes us better writers.
Writing makes us better meditators.
And it’s not just meditation either. Recently, lots of famous writers have opened up about using yoga for creativity.
Somehow, exercises like yoga and meditation make us much better writers.
So let me share with you my favorite mindful writing meditation exercises.
Writers Are Starting To Use Mindful Writing Meditation And Yoga
I’m going to presume that you already know just how darned brilliant mindfulness exercises are for your health and for your happiness.
But what you might not know is that you can do mindful writing meditation exercises too.
There are so many benefits of mindful writing exercises for writers. And it seems a lot of writers are starting to realise this.
Writers are meditating like never before.
In fact, of all professionals, writers are the ones most likely to practice the mind-training exercises.
If you’re a writer, I bet you’ve practiced some types of meditation, and you have probably tried some mindful writing exercises too, right?.
Somehow, writers just seem naturally drawn to meditation. (That must be why there are so many spiritual blogs).
But why are so many writers meditating?
It’s not just meditation, either, it’s yoga too.
Famous Author Are Using Yoga To Improve Their Writing
Recently numerous extremely-talented (and very famous) authors have been tweeting their best yoga-selfies. That’s because the Society of Authors has suddenly lept on the yoga bandwagon.
The Society of Authors is usually all about arguing over contracts and helping authors to raise money to get their books published (actually, I could use a little help with that myself…).
But today the Society of Authors has stepped out of their offices and into the yoga studios. They’ve been challenging authors and book fans to take a yoga-selfie that is inspired by their favorite book.
Joanne Harris [author of Chocolat] asked fans for selfies based on The Hobbit. Phillp Pullman [author of the His Dark Materials trilogy] chose Pride and Prejudice. Neil Gaiman [author of Coraline] chose The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
This was just for fun. But science shows that yoga is actually one of the best ways to improve creativity.
Why we’ve all started doing writing-meditation exercises
As a meditation teacher and novelist I’m often asked about using meditation for creative writing.
That’s a good thing. Because there are so many ways in which meditation improves creative writing.
To illustrate the value of meditation to writers, let me share a personal story. It’s a time when I personally needed to use some writing meditation exercises to help me with my novel.
I was recently working on my latest novel, a young adult fantasy (can’t give much away, sorry). My head had been buried in my manuscript. I’d been writing non-stop for a long time. 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.
I needed to sit and focus.
So I sat for twenty minutes meditating. And hey presto! 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 much, much stronger. I really wish I could share that plot point with you, but my book is currently with the agent and I’m not allowed to discuss it until it’s complete, so I’ll have to wait for now. Suffice to say, the plot point I added brought the whole thing together.
I can honestly say that I would never have realised the change I needed to make had I not meditated. That’s just one one of the benefits of meditation for writers: it helps you notice things.
Meditation cleared my mind, made me look at my novel through fresh eyes, and gave me the insight I needed to truly finish my work.
And that’s just one of the times that meditating had helped my creative writing.
In truth, meditation has been the backbone of my writing for a long time. I always find that I do my best creative work after meditating.
I need a blank page in my mind before I can fill a blank page on the screen. And that’s precisely what meditation gives me: a blank page.
But there are a lot more benefits of these writing-meditation exercises for writers too.
Let’s take a look at the list of exercises first. Then we’ll discuss the benefits of these exercises.
Traditional Meditations For Writers
In my personal experience as a meditation teacher, the following are the best meditations for writers.
- You can learn about all these methods in my guide to the top 31 meditation techniques.
1) Breathing meditation for writers:
Breathing meditations are the best place to start when you’re learning meditation.
Try this simple technique:
- Sit somewhere quiet and relaxing.
- Tell yourself you are going to just sit and focus for 5 minutes.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Focus on the sensation of your breath moving around your body.
- Take 108 breaths in this fashion.
- Notice how you are now very relaxed and focused.
2) Vipassana meditation for writers:
Vipassana is essentially insight. This technique helps you to recognise and understand your thoughts.
This helps you to:
a) overcome any hiccoughs you have about your work
b) make you more aware of thoughts, which can help with characterisation (especially in first person writing).
Try this technique:
- Continue from the breathing technique above
- Begin to notice where your mind wanders
- Label the thing your mind wanders to (see points below)
- If your mind wanders to a thought, say “this is a thought”.
- If your mind wanders to a bodily sensation say “this is a sensation”
- If your mind wanders to sensory information, say “this is vision / sound / touch / scent / taste”
- This technique trains the mind to be more aware of when it is wandering off. It teaches us to regain our focus quicker (meaning less wasted time at the keyboard).
3) Zen Walking Meditation for writers:
I use Zen Walking Meditation for one very simple reason. After writing for ten hours (I write as a novelist and journalist and blogger = lots of writing) I have to get out of the house. And I also need to relax.
Zen Walking Meditation gives you a fantastic break that also helps you to relax and clear your mind.
4) Character Meditation For Writers:
You want to understand your character and get into their shoes. What better way than to completely clear your mind and focus 100% on your character.
It’s simple too.
Just close your eyes and focus on your breathing for 10 minutes, then bring your character to mind. To be a little more specific, bring your character to mind in the way you would with a deity in Bhakti meditation.
Try these 8 mindful writing meditation exercises.
1. Let go with this stream-of-consciousness writing exercise
When starting meditation, writers should spend at least ten minutes letting go of thoughts. Writing can help.
Stream of consciousness writing (spontaneous and unguided writing) offers an opportunity to let all those thoughts and feelings come pouring out onto the page. This can be an immensely cathartic practice, and all it takes is ten minutes.
To do this:
- Begin writing your thoughts. Whatever you think, you write.
Remember, the key is to not judge the writing but rather to let it flow freely.
2. Find happiness by doing this mindful writing exercise on beauty
Psychologists have proven that the ability to appreciate beauty is vital to happiness (*1).
The appreciation of beauty is one of the twenty-four character strengths defined in positive psychology, the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals to thrive. (*2)
One of the ways to appreciate the beauty in the world is to write descriptions of it.
- Get pen and paper
- Sit somewhere relaxing and beautiful
- Take 10 mindful breaths
- Notice anything around you that is beautiful
- Begin to write a realistic description of it. Perhaps there’s a beautiful flower with rich colours. If so, describe the colours. Maybe it’s a sound, like birdsong. If so, describe the tonality and melody.
- Move on to another beautiful thing
- Carry on until you’re written no less than 1000 words
This mindful writing exercise trains the mind to recognise the beauty of every moment. This boosts happiness. And at the same time, it improves your still-life writing.
3. Be more self aware with this mindful writing meditation exercise
One of the most important novel writing skills is the ability to accurately describe emotions.
Usually we write about the emotions of our characters. But to improve this skill we can mindfully write about our own emotions.
This is a type of mindfulness meditation. And not only will it improve your writing, it will strengthen your mind too.
Mindfulness meditation involves non-judgmentally observing our thoughts and feelings. This has been scientifically proven to help control emotions (*4).
There is a better way for writers to do this mindfulness exercise: by writing down our observations. Here’s how .
- Get pen and paper
- Sit somewhere quiet and relaxing
- Take 10 mindful breaths
- Focus on the feelings and emotions in your mind
- Begin to mindfully write about those emotions by describing them.
- Your emotions will change while you write. Follow your emotions. As they change, write about how they are changing.
This mindful writing technique achieves two things:
- It makes us more aware of our emotions, which improves emotional regulaiton
- It improves our ability to write about a character’s emotions and motivations.
4. Body Scan Meditation For Writers (Mindfulness Of Body)
Another excellent mindfulness exercise is to consciously observe the sensations in the body.
Imagine that consciousness is the character in a story.
Chapter one begins with the character in the toes.
From there, the character (consciousness) gradually journeys up the body all the way to the crown of the head.
As the character moves, describe the sensations and experiences it comes across, the physical phenomena occurring in the body.
This is an alternative take on body scan meditation, which has been shown to help ground us, to help us to let go, to remove the stress of negative physical sensations, and to increase appreciation of the body.
5. Try this creative writing exercise for mindfulness of body
Another important area of mindfulness pertains to the way we observe our physical form.
It is best to have a non-judgmental view of the body. This liberates us from any issue with body image, and makes us more accepting and more compassionate of the body.
One of the best ways to create this state is by imagining we are a character in a story.
To do this, we describe ourselves objectively, in a non-judgemental fashion. This improves self awareness. Plus, as an added bonus: by describing ourselves objectively we learn to write more detailed and more realistic characters.
6. Try this mindful writing prompt
“The light touches…”
The key to using this writing prompt is to become conscious of light in an environment, and then write about how the light moves, the objects it comes into contact with, and how those objects change it.
This writing prompt increases mindfulness of sight. As we follow the light throughout the room we become mindful of objects, of their shape, colour, texture, and all their visual qualities.
In here excellent book The Creative Brain, Shelly Carson reveals that when we mindfully observe the visual make-up of our environment as we do in this exercise, we boost our creative powers and we become ore playful.
7. Observe and eliminate distractions
Distractions are funny things. They’re only really distractions when we’re not fully conscious of them.
If we’re at work but really texting, the text is a distraction because it is preventing us from being fully conscious of our work. But when we fully focus on texting (the distraction) it stops being a distraction and becomes a task that we are mindfully doing.
We can take advantage of this by writing about those distractions. This makes us more conscious of how we are being distracted. After writing about the distractions, tear up the paper (or delete the text if typing), and throw it away, imagining that the distractions are being thrown away with it.
8. My favorite mindful writing meditation exercise is to transcribe the mind
This is one of the most enlightening mindful writing exercises. It is similar to stream of consciousness writing but with some important differences.
The gist of it is to transcribe whatever runs through the mind. Not only do we write our thoughts, we write the quality of the thoughts, the loudness, the feelings of the thoughts, everything.
There are many ways to go about this. Feel free to experiment. Or try the following:
- Change the colours of the writing (for instance, if it’s an angry thought make it red)
- Use different letter sizes to express loudness
- Experiment with different fonts.
The end result of this process will look something like a piece of modern art, an artistic expression of the mind. And the process of creating it will not just increase mindfulness, but will illustrate the mind in a way most people have never seen. This exercise has to be experienced to be believed.
There are many more meditation techniques for writers
I have used these meditation techniques for many years and my creative writing has significantly improved as a result of them.
There are, however, many more meditations for writers to learn. If you would like to overcome writer’s block, to unleash your imagination, and to take your writing to a new level, then you should definitely read my new book: Your Best Meditation.
The Benefits Of Writing Meditation Exercises Writers
Meditation creates compassion, making you feel closer to your characters.
It cuts out distractions so you can focus fully on your novel.
It makes you more mindful, more aware. This helps with editing.
It stops you from getting angry and smashing your keyboard.
It makes you more observant of other people, which helps when writing characters
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 mindful writing exercises come in handy.
When we are consumed by thoughts, feelings, and other mental phenomena, we can use writing to pull ourselves back into the present moment.
As a meditation teacher, author and journalist, I frequently use mindful writing meditation exercises.
I spend approximately 30 percent of my waking life either writing or practicing various forms of meditation (along with yoga, Tai chi and other healing arts). And I’ve had the pleasure of teaching both practices to others.
But what thrills me most is teaching mindfulness and writing side-by-side.
Put together, these two pastimes create a powerful transformative experience that can boost both writing skills and mental health.
Mindful writing exercises are great for both mindfulness and writing. And it a powerful way of improving both your writing skills and your mind.
Of course you do not have to be a writer to use these techniques. They are great for everyone. Whether you’re a Buddhist, Christian, athetist, agnostic… unlike some meditations, these are universal.
With these mindful writing exercises both your mind and your writing will improve
Mindfulness is an absolute gem for writers. Not only does it train the mind but it boosts our writing skills too.
Whether you’re a professional novelist or an avid amateur writer, you can gain a lot from these mindful writing exercises.
Incidentally, it’s not just writing, either. Meditation will also make you a better musician too.
7 Best Poses In Yoga For Writers
- New to yoga? Check out my guide to the 13 types of yoga. I’ll help you choose which one to do.
- Or try these crazy alternative styles of yoga.
1. Child’s Pose
Creativity comes when we are relaxed and at peace. It’s said that you can’t rush art. You’ve just got to surrender to the world and let nature guide you back to your point of creativity.
One of the best ways to do that is with Child’s Pose.
In this simple pose we relax with the forehead on the floor, our spine long with space between the vertebrae.
In this position we breathe and unwind. This restores our flow and let’s creativity return to us. Definitely one of the best yoga poses for writers.
2. Corpse Pose
Corpse pose is a simple pose in which we are at rest on the ground, lying on our backs.
Usually practiced at the end of a yoga session, corpse pose is a moment for meditation. It is surrender. It is being one with the universe. It is deep meditation—precisely the sort of meditation that boosts creativity.
This yoga pose helps writers to relax and to refocus their minds.
3. Pigeon Pose
Pigeon pose is a way of liberating the energy reservoirs in the hips.
This beautiful pose is a potent way of releasing negative energy.
The hips are the seeds of inner creativity. When we relax the hips we open the second chakra, boosting creative energy.
If you’re stuck in your writing, hold Pigeon Pose for a few minutes. It will rekindle your creative fires.
4. Eagle Pose
Closely related to pigeon pose, Eagle Pose also opens the hips to liberate the creative energy in the second chakra (Svadhishthana). It also releases shoulder and neck tension, which undoes a lot of the trouble we writers experience from sitting at the desk for too long.
5. Half Moon Pose
Half Moon Pose is a pose of harmony in which the whole body works together.
This wonderful pose produces inner peace and balance. It is a powerful way of opening the mind. This is one of the best yoga poses for writer’s block.
6. Pranayama and meditative breathing
Pranayama and meditative breathing are excellent for relaxation and for writer’s block. When we are relaxed and calm the brain produces alpha brainwaves that are conducive to creativity. This will work together with the physical posture to cause a surge in creative energy.
The headstand is one of yoga’s best poses for creativity. It stimulates the brain as blood flows to the head. The change of perspective leads to the creation of new thoughts and ideas. This is a wonderful yoga pose for writers who are trying to come up with new ideas.
If you’re looking for a form of yoga that will have a big effect on your mind, take a look at my guide to Pratyahara yoga. Pratyahara is a way of reducing negative influences so that we are freer, more productive, and more positive. This has a profound effect on the mind and will help you to get the flow going in your writing.
5 Benefits Of Yoga For Writers
We looked at the best yoga poses for writers above. These asanas are beneficial for body and mind.
More than anything, though, the yogic way of life is excellent for writers for many reasons.
Here are my top 5 benefits of yoga for writers.
1: Yoga improves a writer’s health
Whether you write at work (letters and the sort) or you’re writing a novel at home, as a writer you probably spend a good deal of time sitting in front of a computer.
We all know that sitting in front of a computer all day is far from healthy. We need to take breaks for both the body and mind. We need to stretch to get blood flowing again. Otherwise we will suffer numerous health complications.
This is why many bosses are advocating yoga at work.
Yoga is one of the best exercises to in your breaks. It quickly gets us moving and undoes the damage of a sedentary lifestyle.
Tip: Take 15 minute breaks every 2 hours to do some yoga.
2: Yoga makes writers more mindful (meaning less typos and less errors in writing)
Mindfulness (see our spiritual-words dictionary) is huge for writers. When we are consciously living in the present moment we are less likely to make typos and other mistakes (grammar, formatting, you name it—there are more than enough errors writers make).
And when editing, mindfulness helps us to catch typos and other errors that need to be edited.
It works like this:
- Yoga boosts mindfulness
- Mindfulness makes us more aware
- When we are more aware we make less mistakes
- and when we are more aware we also spot the errors in our work
In other words, yoga helps writers to make less mistakes and to edit their work more accurately.
3: Yoga makes writers more creative
Writing is the combination of creative skills and technical skills. We need technical skills to write accurately and to edit work. We need creative skills to come up with ideas.
Science shows yoga boosts creativity.
The link above includes a look at many scientific studies that prove that yoga makes writers more creative.
And creativity helps writer in myriad ways.
Because yoga boosts creativity, it also:
- Helps us come up with ideas for novels
- Helps with brainstorming
- Helps us create fictional worlds
- For technical writers (letters, marketing, essays etc.) yoga helps us to form new ideas for arguments
- Yoga helps writers imagine their characters
- Yoga makes us more playful, which for writers means more playful writing, willingness to experiment, and less concern over perfection (which helps when you’re fleshing out a first draft of a novel or other work)
Again, for proof of all these points, see the link above.
4: Yoga helps writers to stay sane
We all know the scenes from Stephen King’s The Shining, when all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and ultimately drives him insane.
For mental health, writers must be able to get away from their work. And this is not always easy. When you are totally engrossed in your character’s live (for novel writers) it can be hard to get out.
We need time away from our work in order to a) not go completely insane, and b) to step back and see our work in a new perspective.
Yoga refreshes the mind and reduces what Buddhists call “clinging”–which is essentially a mental fixation, the kind of fixation you experience when you’re writing like a mad person desperately trying to complete your work.
In other words, yoga helps writers relax and step back from their work.
5: Yoga makes us more productive writers
Productivity is essential to most writers. From the office worker with a million letters to write, to the mega-famous author who is pushing out a production line of fiction, we need to take steps to improve productivity.
Yoga makes writers more productive in many ways. It keeps us fit so we can stay at peak-performances levels. It helps us come up with new ideas so we actually have things to writers about. It improves our posture (huge for writers because bad posture leads to problems when typing). And it helps our minds to stay relaxed yet focused.
There’s just so much in yoga for writers
Writers who practice yoga for half an hour a day will be much more productive than writers who neglect their bodies as they strive to get more work done. This might be one reason why there are so many good yoga blogs too–those yogi writers just keep on writing, online and off.
Go do yoga.
You’ll be fitter and a better writer to boot.
The spirit, science, and asanas we’ve looked at in this article will seriously boost your writing skills and your writing career.
Now, fellow writers, proceed to point out the multitude of painfully ironic typos and grammatical errors in this piece. 😉
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Paul Harrison is a meditation teacher, author and journalist based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential. Don’t miss Paul’s inspirational and enlightening book: Your Best Meditation