A Short Meditation Exercise for Writing

Well, this morning I already messed up one of the things I “learned” at the writing retreat led by Dani Shapiro I attended last weekend at Kripalu.

The class was on meditation and writing, and was a good mix of both. One of the best meditations of the weekend I took away was one Shapiro said she’d gotten from cartoonist author Lynda Barry. Get a paper and pen. Set a timer for two minutes (Shapiro recommended and I agree that the Insight Timer app is great). Make a dot in the middle of the paper, then draw the tightest spiral you can around it, always trying to make it as close as possible to the earlier lines without touching, because it’s like the game Operation, you’ll get electrocuted. (side note, current versions of the game play laughter when you touch the sides, not a nasty buzz. I think I prefer the buzz rather than the mocking.)

When the timer goes off, set it for 5 minutes. Turn to a new piece of paper (Shapiro recommends keeping a journal to do this exercise every day, and doing facing pages for it). Make a four section grid. Label the sections: Did, Saw, Heard, and Doodle.

Think of seven things you did, saw or heard within some set of time (24 hours or the morning or whatever) and fill in those with words. Then, when you have seven of each, start to doodle in the final square. Stop when done, and go right to writing.

That last bit is the important part. GO RIGHT TO WRITING.

Do not check email, Facebook, twitter, etc. Do not make coffee, go to the bathroom. START TO WRITE.

That’s the part I didn’t manage this morning. But when I realized it, I came right here and started to write. (To my credit, my ego insists that I add that I did: have a proper brekkie, gets boys on bus, do yoga, chant, and meditate before doing the spiral/quadrant exercise.)

There are so many things I let distract me from writing. Email and twitter and facebook are seductive because they SEEM like writing. But they’re empty calories. Fine in moderation, but not good to snack on continually. I’ve taken Twitter and Facebook off my phone, so that’s a start.

2 Responses to “A Short Meditation Exercise for Writing”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    I love this. I’m going to try it as soon as I finish this comment.
    A while ago I decided to try writing for a number of hours every morning before checking email or going online at all. Noon was the magic hour. The amount I could get done astonished me. Of course, there has been some backsliding, but in general, very effective.

  2. girldetective Says:

    Jen, I tried that dedicated time for a while, and it worked for a while, and like many things, it stopped working. I called it writing o’clock, and I forget when it began, or maybe once it began it was supposed to go for at least an hour. I’m working my way back to a better writing practice, and the workshop/retreat helped a lot.