Mindfulness—usually via meditation—has become a hot topic in recent years and for a good reason. It’s been scientifically proven to significantly reduce anxiety and improve stress reactivity. Research also found that meditation can help suppress distracting information, thus enhancing focus and performance.
Writers who practice mindfulness, therefore, benefit from less stress and distraction and increased focus and performance. But they also experience increased creativity. Several studies have shown that meditation has a direct effect on your creativity, problem-solving, and cognitive flexibility.
Sometimes equated to conscious awareness, according to Mindful.org, “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
As every author knows, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by our lives and world events and let negative thoughts keep us from accessing our full creative abilities. But that hinders our creativity and attempts to write.
Try following these three simple meditation exercises may help you come up with new story ideas, break through the dam restricting your thoughts, and let your creativity flow.
The Five Senses Exercise
Inspiration can be found all around us, but we are often so focused on the world we already know that we are oblivious to it. Intentionally or not, we end up not minding the gaps, seeing them from different perspectives. This exercise is geared to help you change that.
Sit in a comfortable place. It doesn’t need to be completely quiet and can be in your house, a park, your car, or any other place you choose. Now, pay attention to yourself and your surroundings. Notices all your senses. How do you react to each sensation? Take note of each thing you focus on.
Focus on Things You Can See
Try to see beyond the everyday things. Notice things that would have gone unnoticed on casual perusal. What is unique about them? Why did they get overlooked before?
Focus on What You Can Feel
Take notice of the things that you are touching. Again, try to focus on things you may not usually take note of, such as the feeling of your clothes on your body or how the sun feels on your skin. Is there a breeze flowing? Is it starting to rain? How does that feel?
Focus on What You Can Hear
Close your eyes and focus on the sounds around you. Is there someone mowing the lawn in the background? Or children and pets playing? What do you hear?
Focus on What You Can Smell
Closing your eyes once again, focus on the smells around you. Is there someone cooking good food nearby? Was the grass recently mowed?
Focus on What You Can Taste
For this part of the exercise, you can either eat something, drink something, or just focus on what your mouth tastes like at this moment. How would you describe it?
Alternatively, you can try this exercise with a single food. Take an item, such an apple, and describe it with each of your senses. Don’t rush through it. Relax, look at the item from new perspectives, write down the new things you notice, and make a note of your reactions.
Later, try this writing exercise: Write a story from the perspective of someone who has just regained the use of one or more of their senses. Use the setting where you performed this exercise and your observations. What would be the most impactful feeling?
The Autopilot Exercise
Throughout the day, we perform a significant number of activities — most of which we are so familiar with that we perform them on autopilot. For this exercise, pick one of those activities. It can be something as simple as brushing your teeth or a little more complicated, such as cooking your favorite meal. Try to step out of autopilot mode and bring awareness to everything that you are doing — down to the way you breathe and the movements of your hands.
Take note of the things around you. What you are using? What you are looking at? Pay attention to the colors, the shapes, the textures. Describe everything you perceive.
Later, try this writing exercise: Write a story that describes an everyday activity through the eyes of someone who is performing it for the first time. What would that person focus on? What would be the easiest part? What would be the most difficult one?
All day long our ears pick up sounds. For this exercise, pick a song from a genre you usually don’t listen to. If you want to make this choice even more objectively, randomly choose a song or listen to a random radio station.
Get into a comfortable position and listen carefully to the song, letting it draw you in. Take notice of how it makes you feel. Separate each sound you hear and then notice how they function as a unit or how the instruments and vocals fit together. Explore every aspect of the song without letting your personal tastes get in the way. Be as objective as you can.
Let the music flow through you and describe what and how it makes you feel. What images come to mind when listening to the track?
Later, try this writing exercise: Write a story from the perspective of an adult who has just discovered what music is. What are their first impressions? How do they react to what they are listening to?
Seeing things from new perspectives may inspire you. Try to take a step back from your day-to-day activities and focus on what is always present but never truly noticed. Combining such mindfulness techniques and writing exercises can move your creative process to the next level.
Do you practice mindfulness? If so, tell me in a comment below how it has affected your creativity and writing.
About the Author
Emmanuel Nataf is the founder and CEO of Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. Emmanuel dedicates most of his time to building Reedsy’s product and is interested in how technology can transform cultural industries.