After ten years of struggling to see my stories published while going around and around with the revisions of my novel, something changed. I finished the novel. I found an agent. I signed my first publishing deal. I was accepted to attend the Squaw Valley Community of Writers (after having been rejected two years before). A short story I wrote was not only published, it was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. My novel won the WILLA Award for fiction. I wrote a second, more complex novel in a fraction of the time it took me to write the first.
When I looked back at the inflection point, when I reflected on what it was that changed, the only thing that stood out was that I began meditating on a regular basis. At first I dismissed the idea that meditation could have had anything to do with my writing life finally finding traction, but over time I started to realize that there were, in fact, several concrete, quantifiable, and teachable ways in which my mindfulness practice transformed my creative work.
Excited to share what I’d discovered the hard way, I started teaching a day-long Mindful Writers Workshop. (It’s worth noting that, in addition to my graduate degree in creative writing, I am also certified by UC Berkeley as a mindfulness instructor, but I had never combined the two disciplines before.)
In six grueling hours, over Zoom, I tried to share everything I’d learned about mindfulness and writing. I got some wonderful feedback from my students, but I felt frustrated that, after the day was over, we all just went our separate ways. Both writing and mindfulness require regular, daily practice and my day-long workshop simply had no way of facilitating that kind of routine.
Thus was born the 6-Week Mindful Writers Challenge. I first offered the challenge in the summer of 2021 and have been fine tuning it since then, but the basic structure remains: we meditate and write, an hour a day, six days a week, for six weeks. I am loving this format for two reasons: first, it allows for ample time to explore the topics without the burnout of spending six hours on zoom in one day, and second, it sets writers up to build a mindful writing practice that will carry them far into the future.
Here are just a few of the things I cover in the challenge:
- Hone your focus using various mindfulness meditation techniques.
- Improve your craft on every level, from wider themes to compelling details.
- Master your inner critic by learning to recognize the patterns in your own thinking.
- Understand your own habitual responses to the world and use that insight to write more relatable and sympathetic heroes and villains.
- Engage in an advanced version mindfulness meditation to evoke emotion and find the words to describe it with empathy and precision.
- Banish writer’s block forever by taking a closer look at what is really keeping you from writing.
- Put your inner critic to work where it works best: as a top-notch editor.
- Find equanimity in the writer’s life. Deal with rejections, manage imposter syndrome, develop your craft and keep writing, because that’s what writers do.
the next round of the challenge starts on February 2, 2022.
If you’re looking to build a regular practice around your writing, and are curious about how mindfulness can help, apply for the challenge now. After you submit your application, you will be prompted to schedule a time for us to talk one-on-one about whether or not the challenge is a good fit for where you are with your writing. If it is, we’ll get your enrolled.
Get started. Stay focused. Finish your manuscript.