Whenever your writing comes out bland, messy, or “not quite right,” it’s usually because you’ve hit what I call a “snag.”
These mental hurdles are usually the result of stress, but they can also arise due to over-or-under stimulation, poor organization, or physical problems like a lack of sleep, hunger, and dehydration.
One of the more neglected benefits of mindfulness is its potential to “smooth out” your thinking process and help you to work through issues you never even knew you had. Writers fall prey to all sorts of snags during the course of their art, and they often culminate in the phenomenon known as “writer’s block.”
Snags are unavoidable, but mindfulness can help you to address and learn from them in a way that is healthy rather than frustrating. As you begin to practice mindful writing more frequently, you’ll start to actively notice snags and will see them more clearly when they arise. This gives you the opportunity to engage in what’s known as “sitting with a feeling.”
When you hit a snag, step one is to pause, become consciously aware of it, and then stop to identify what the snag truly is beneath its murky exterior. Is it a sense of frustration with your work or yourself? Is it a feeling of boredom or restlessness? Are you hungry, thirsty, or in need of a good, hot shower?
All of these sensations can easily become snags that slow you down and hurt your writing. Mindfulness allows you to cultivate awareness of a snag and “untangle” it when it rears its ugly head. Knowing that the snag exists is in and of itself a step toward overcoming it.
Once you’ve identified a snag and — if possible — addressed any immediate, underlying causes, your job is to simply sit with the feeling at its core and let your brain work through it naturally, without putting too much pressure on yourself to get past it “quickly.” It has to flow out in its own time.
A mindful approach to writing “snags” can revolutionize the way you handle them, taking away much of the stress and despair they usually cause us as artists.