Mindfulness for Writers

One way or another, 2016 was a pretty stressful year for me. And for many, I guess.  Often I compared the world to a spinning top and wished that, just for ten minutes, I could get off. And I think I might have landed upon a way to do just that. Mindfulness. A form of meditation that encourages you to concentrate just on the present; to not worry about the future or dwell upon the past.

How often have you walked down street and suddenly reached your destination, without having observed the route – because your  mind is full of everyday concerns? Mindfulness helps push those worry-some thoughts to one side, for a while, by encouraging you to really focus on your surroundings. Either the noises – traffic, aeroplanes, birds, pedestrians chatting… or the sights, such as the detailed shape and colour of buildings. This enables us to get off the spinning top for a few minutes and relax!

mindfulness crystals

Yesterday I went on a mindfulness walk – I’m doing a course and this was a planned excursion. We studied the textures and colours of the woodland and river. We listened hard to the birds and ended with a super meditation. Below is a photo I took of a log’s perfect reflection.

mindfulness log 2

Here is a tree’s trunk, with contrasting colours and peeling bark. Mindfulness is about observing and appreciating the detail.

mindfulnes bark

So, how can this help my job as an author? Well, mindfulness requires you to connect with all your five senses on an intimate level – and the five senses are so important, in writing, for conveying settings, feelings – EVERYTHING –  to the reader. As a novelist, I do my best to write in the most sensory way possible, but mindfulness is training me how to really become aware of  the detail. That way the story becomes fuller and more relatable and realistic for the reader.

Eating a biscuit? Okay. Let’s be mindful about the five senses! Say with a fruit and oat cookie.

Sight – its surface is rough, with oat ridges and soft spots filled with succulent raisins and perhaps apple. The biscuit is baked to a warm, inviting brown colour. The round shape is not a perfect circle and it is too big to eat in one go. It is solid. Chunky. Thick. Looks filling and unbreakable.

Smell – a subtle sweetness, increased by the fruit but subdued by the oats. A similar aroma to apple crumble. It reminds you of baking sessions with your mother. A cosy kitchen with sweet treats in the oven. Buttery and comforting.

Hearing – as you bite in, there is a snapping noise as a bit breaks off. Then munching  sounds as you chew and break it into smaller parts. The whole process quietens down as saliva mixes with the biscuit and makes it almost liquid as it travels silently down your throat.

Touch – initially as solid as concrete when your teeth touch the outside. But after a little pressure, your teeth sink in and break off a part. Then that chunk moves to the side of your mouth and  becomes chewy as your molars go up and down on the raisin and apple bits. Eventually it crumbles across your tongue, spreading nicely to hit all those tastebuds. The whole experience is satisfying and makes you feel full. There is a sense of safety, well-being and happiness. You recall more memories of childhood baking and time spent with Mum or coffee and cake excursions with friends or a loved one.

Taste – solid oaty flavours dominate until you chew and then burst of sweetness dance on your tongue as the apple bits and raisins break apart. Apple crumble. Flapjack. Breakfast cereal. A satisfying taste that isn’t rich and sickly, and leaves you wanting more.

So, forgive me, if my novels become a little longer! A cup of tea and slice of cake could become a whole new adventure! But seriously, why not consider taking some time out to connect with the fundamentals? It will give you a whole new set of tools to deal with the complexities of modern life.

 

 

 

 

A Year of Change…

Phew. What a year 2016 has been. Brexit, Trump, countless celebrity deaths…  Some days I hardly dared look at what was trending on Twitter! Global surprises aside, like many of you, I’ve also had a year chock full of peaks and troughs. With one thing and another, I was thinking to myself that I’d be glad to see the back of 2016 – but quickly took that back. Because, due to the difficult times, I’ve actually learnt a lot – about life; about myself.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? We learn nothing from remaining static. So even if the lessons are hard, I’m all for mixing it up and facing change. If we don’t continue to gain knowledge, then what’s the point? So I’m looking forward to facing what life throws at me in 2017.

Reading and writing have, of course, featured heavily in my life this year. There are my own books, including my summer Cornish romance which got to #8 in the UK Kindle chart. That was thrilling and huge thanks to all you readers. Your support and kind words mean so much.

breakfast under a sun small

I am super excited about my upcoming projects as well, and April 2017 sees the publication of my next novel which is all about being true to yourself – and coffee! You can imagine what fun I had, researching that subject (well, it would be rude not to have something sweet with each cup – even if it is as small as this macaroon)!

coffee and cake 2

 

I’ve taken up a course in Mindfulness which means reading books about visualisation and breathing. It was very difficult at first, learning to mediate, with lots of intrusive thoughts, ranging from problems to lists for shopping! But the more I practise, the easier it gets. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who feels like they sometimes need “time out” from their busy twenty-first century life.

mindfulness

I also started a health-kick three months ago and whilst it was difficult for the first few weeks, now I feel fantastic. It’s all about San Pellegrino mineral water, stir fries and blueberries… not that I have given up my daily chocolate fix. I have to be realistic 🙂  I’ve also rediscovered my love of baking which has meant researching and reading recipes online. Below is, ahem, a “healthy” banana cake!

banana cake

 

Finally, 2016 has been a year for discovering new authors. Below is a great debut read from Helen Cox – the style is what I’d call gritty chicklit. It’s a fabulous story for fans of American diner food and Grease.

Helen

Right. That’s me done for the year. Now I’m off to wrap presents. I hope 2016 has been good to you all – and if not, that you feel the negatives have nevertheless taught you something positive. Here’s to a great 2017 for everyone. Have a fantastic Christmas. I’ll raise a glass of fizzy mineral water to you all 🙂