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Reflections on writing mindfully

Over the winter, the good folks at Event magazine asked me to contribute to their annual Notes on Writing issue. After mulling it over, I contributed my thoughts on writing mindfully. What does mindful writing look like? What does it mean?

I spent much of the winter writing in a small cabin in the rainforest of southern Vancouver Island, on the campus of Lester B. Pearson United College, where I was serving as writer in residence. I conducted weekly workshops with students, and we discussed and wrote through difficult issues of identity, home, belonging, and the ways we experience and cause suffering. It was through the lens of considering suffering, and the possibilities for peace that come about through honest exploration, that I wrote the piece.

In part, I write:

I might say that mindfulness brings to writing a quality of deep listening; deep empathy. Concurrently, I believe good writing invites and makes room for risk. Something is at stake for the writer, some burning question or obsession or intellectual or emotional puzzle. In a world increasingly hostile to dialogue, polarized between bullying binaries (I’m right; you’re wrong; agree with me or you’re my enemy), to speak one’s convictions becomes an act of courage. To enter into an unknown space; to make a mark on the page, is to stake one’s place in the world. As writers, we risk when we create complex, multi-dimensional situations, stepping beyond our comfort zones. There’s risk in speaking up against perceived untruths, calling to account systems of power, either institutional or social; to declare that the Emperor has no clothes. In my workshops, I see how power plays out in subtle, under-the-surface ways. I try my best to attune myself to the ways our bodies, experiences, and histories shape how we perceive and experience the world.

I’m grateful to Shashi Bhat and the team at Event for providing the opportunity to think through mindful writing. In the issue, you’ll also find notes on writing contributions from Leah Horlick, Kate Braid, J.R. McConvey, and Kate Braid.

Copies can be ordered directly from Event.