Monday, 5 May 2014

A Mindful Moment

Just stop what you’re doing (well, okay, finish reading this post first). Close your eyes, and use your other senses to experience the moment. What can you hear? What do you feel? What can you smell?

Clear you mind, if you can (deep breathing exercises can help with this), and ask yourself each of those questions in turn.

What can I hear? At this precise moment, I can hear two clocks ticking in my room, but they’re not in ticking unison. Through the open window a buzzard mews and two pigeons are flapping haphazardly around. (I know which two these are. The male pigeon knows what he wants and the female pigeon is having none of it!) There’s a sudden roar, as the blade of a lawnmower goes from 0 to 7500 rotations a minute.

What can I feel? The sun’s heat is intensified as it pours through the window and falls upon the right hand side of my face. I have one warm cheek can one hot cheek! My fingers rest on my keyboard, and the notches on the F and J keys, to designed help with touch-typing, make themselves known to me. Strangely, I don’t normally notice them.

What can I smell? The aroma of freshly mown grass now wafts through the window. It’s sweet and has a lushness to it. Whoever is cutting their grass has chosen not to wait for the morning dew to evaporate first.

There. I got all that from just one brief moment of mindfulness. Taking a few moments to zone out of today’s pressures and focus in on what our senses tells us can be a great way to influence our writing. I love the ideas that can come from these moments. The thought that I have two out-of-sync clocks now has my mind racing about two time zones operating in my room, a split second apart. Think of the implications of that! On the face of it, both clocks tell the same time, but the noise they make tells me this isn’t true.

These tiny observations can add detail to our own writing. Often it is the smallest of details that our readers enjoy the most - and helps to draw them into our work. It’s something travel writers should practise regularly, but I think all writers can benefit from a little mindfulness. I often stop when I’m doing my walk and just let my other senses absorb the world around me. Two potential article ideas arose after yesterday’s wander. 

Of course, you can be mindful with your eyes open, and the scene in the photo above is one such moment that my eyes feasted on recently. I watched, transfixed, as the cloud fought with the hill and tried to drag it back under the blanket of fog. (Indeed, it’s generated a series of ideas I’m pitching to an editor.) 

Mindfulness techniques like this help us to observe more about our surroundings (which is why many spiritual beliefs and wisdoms promote mindfulness as an energising exercise). As writers we draw upon our surroundings for our ideas and subject matter, so if you find your writing is a little stagnant, or you’re stuck with a piece and are not sure how to move it forward, take some time out. Why not have a mindful moment and see if that can help you see a solution?

Good luck.


  1. Oh, I love this post, Simon. I am a great believer in moments of stillness to 'feel' what your characters are experiencing. Taking that moment to stop and soak up the sounds and smells around you (and it doesn't have to be in an iconic scenic location) can help create that important, essential depth and charisma of characters we all love.

    1. Yes, I think if we all stopped to experience what we already have, we'd appreciate everything a bit more!

  2. Sorry Simon, I didn't try this one, simply becuase if I did all I would hear is the tinitus ringer in my ears. Bloody pain the bum area it is too.

    1. Sorry to read about that, Ron. ... especially as it affects other parts of your body too ;-)

      I hope you've found a way of managing it.