Writing with Beginner’s Mind
Writing is for everyone! A writer and workshop leader shows us how….
by Tunde Nemeth
Forget everything you’ve ever learned about writing, everything you know about making an outline and following it and sticking to one point per paragraph. Forget about grammar and punctuation and making sense. Forget that writing is a special talent, a god-given gift granted to a special few but not to you, a gift reserved for “writers.” (It’s not.) Forget that you’re not a “writer.”
It doesn’t matter. You can write. We all can. We just need to remember we can.
So many of us have had any urge to write drummed out of us somewhere along the way – often sometime around middle school, when some teacher scribbled all over our precious thoughts with that awful red pen and convinced us we had nothing to say or we’d never ever learn how to say it well enough, so we may as well not bother. And now we write nothing but grocery lists or maybe emails or facebook posts.
And we can all write. We just need to remember we can.
You may be thinking right about now, well, that may be true for everybody else, but not for me. And I ask you: can you talk?
Writing, says Thich Nhat Hanh, is a form of speech, and so writing can be a form of right speech. In other words, if you can manage to string together two thoughts in a row when you express yourself out loud, you can do the same thing in writing.
When we sit down to meditate, we learn to focus on the breath. We learn to let go of our thoughts instead of following them, returning always to the breath when we notice ourselves thinking.
When we sit down to write, we learn to focus on capturing those thoughts, following them wherever they might lead, writing them down before they get away. We can focus on our thoughts, but gently, with a light touch, just like we do in meditation.
Most of us have learned that we write to communicate with others, and that is necessary and it’s fine. But we can also write to communicate with ourselves, to see what we think, to explore and to understand, to dive more deeply into our own hearts. You can write just for the sake of writing, for the sake of uncovering truth. Your truth. From the heart. Your heart.
We can approach the blank page with beginner’s mind, with a mind that is fresh and open and curious to see what might pop out.
That’s what I want to give people a chance to do when I lead a contemplative writing workshop: to just see what pops out when you give yourself permission to write, with beginner’s mind.
We’ll sit for a bit, then write for a bit; then we’ll walk for a bit, then write some more; then we’ll have an opportunity to share. You don’t have to share anything you don’t want to, but if you do, it will be in a safe space, with no judgment, no critiquing, just compassionate listening.
If you’ve been thinking of doing some contemplative writing, but you’ve stopped yourself because you think it’s not for you, because you think you can’t write, I hope you’ll change your mind and give it a try. It may be exactly for you.
Tunde Nemeth is a member of the Palm Beach Shambhala Meditation Group, and recently served as leader of their Contemplative Writing Workshop.