Minding Your Writer’s Mind

A serious writer is not to be confounded with a solemn writer. A serious writer may be a hawk or a buzzard or even a popinjay, but a solemn writer is always a bloody owl.
– Ernest Hemingway

It would be nice to be able to sit down and write a sentence, then the next, perhaps even a third, and then to follow suit in a linear fashion eventually culminating with the completion of a cohesive and coherent text. Is it really asking too much for my mind to play nice? My often mind flits and flutters like the proverbial wing flapping butterfly in Chaos Theory. With all this wrestling with my thoughts, it’s difficult for me to bear in mind that I’m writing for others. So that basically means, my readers often have to hold on for dear life as they read my words, both those on and between the lines. Somewhere of course there is a message. I know what it is, but it’s the readers’ task to find it. And, like with any trip, getting there is half the fun.

Writing for me needs to be fun. It must have a shade of the abstract and a touch of randomness because that’s just the way my mind works. Can I write in 50 or words or less? No. Can I be less of myself? Definitely not. Why? Because that’s just how my mind works. So why should I fight it. If my writing defies convention so be it; my mind certainly does … and most likely do a fair number of yours.

Yet, for many writers and bloggers, writing is a chore. Ideas don’t come easily and finding their ‘voice’ is like looking for a needle in the verbal haystack. If you fancy yourself a writer or blogger, you most likely desire to establish your identity through your words, and to distinguish yourself from your peers, whomever they may be … especially those monkeys which are banging away in earnest to bang out the entire works of Shakespeare on a typewriter as a matter of happenstance.

Yes, there’s something to be said about developing your personal style of writing. It’s an achievement that many writers struggle for years to accomplish … that is to find their own voice. Ironically, ask someone to tell you his thoughts and he will have no qualms in elucidating exactly what’s on his mind. Ask him to write said thoughts down and you get sort of a constipated pained look. If there were such thing as Ex-Lax for writer’s block, it would go over like gangbusters on the literary circuit.

As always, it’s our minds that play tricks on us. Speaking one’s mind is easy. Being mindful of others and their supposed expectations is the hard part. In truth, we are educated at a young age to concern ourselves more with the end product of writing, but not the process. We also seem conditioned to seek approval from others, rather than from within. Unfortunately, such approval often comes with close adherence to preconceived restrictions and much following of the ‘rules’ of convention.

Defining convention is a boring and often noxious affair. Noxious in the sense that to some it proves self-defeating and certainly de-personalizing. Writing as an art requires a certain amount of about liberty, poetic license if you will. That license must extend to one’s thought process, as well, especially since one’s writing ends up being an extension of one’s psyche.

I might start out writing with one preconceived notion. However, I try not to give too much weight to it, because most likely I’ll end up editing it out later. Why? Because trying to ‘color within the lines’ never really worked for me. Even before I could write, my kindergarten teacher kept telling me not to ‘cross the line’ … but I continued to do so anyway because even at 5 years old, I didn’t want restrictions on my creativity … and to a greater extent my ideas.

Sometimes, though we may be consumed with ‘grand slam’ like ideas, we put paper to pen, or fingers to keys, and we end up bunting for fear of sending the wrong message or being misinterpreted. So we wax vanilla, as opposed to pistachio. After all, we want to be accepted, and this desire breeds the writing equivalent of donning a neck tie and brushing our hair. Ironically, while it’s apparently ingrained in us to put our best foot forward in our writing, we sometimes have no qualms in putting our foot in our mouths when we speak.

Linguists, and I’ve known a few, will tell you that our faculties of speech are part and parcel of our projection of our ‘self’ into the universe. What about our writing? Oh well, that’s always a bit contrived, isn’t it? After all, there are just too many confounding variable to consider that come between our thoughts and our printed words … even those which may be scribbled in crayon.

This begs the question: so who are you? Does your writing define you?

I think, as writers, and I extend this to bloggers, we tend to take our writing so seriously. We are admonished by our peers to produce ‘good content’ and the masses will beat a path to our doors … publishers, blog followers and the like … unless of course our neighbors are doing the same and know how to put on a better spread than us. Still, for me it’s difficult to qualify what ‘good’ or ‘quality’ content actually is. Is there a universal ‘good seal of approval’ we can apply for? Are there indeed standards? To whom can we petition for our 4 or 5 star rating? Experts apparently agree that … well, that there is … like … you know … well everyone knows … um … what good writing is … apparently … sort of. It’s just one of those things you can’t put your finger on, but you know it when you read it … even though it’s all very subjective. In fact, it’s so subjective that I would argue it just doesn’t exist in any uniform nature.

Invariably, it’s worth mentioning that some people enjoy scarfing popcorn at movies, others roasted ants. I’d imagine with the latter there’s more snap and crackle than pop…. maybe it’s the same with your writing.

If so, take heart in knowing that just as with preventing forest fires, only you can really make a difference. Stop trying to write for others, and start trying to write for yourself. Presence of mind only comes when you are focused on you and your thoughts, and not when you are looking over your shoulder and considering what others might think.

Before you can find your voice for words to follow, you must first find your mind.



Suggested Reading:

Writing Open the Mind: Tapping the Subconscious to Free the Writing and the Writer Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life The Writer's I Ching: Wisdom for the Creative Life


7 thoughts on “Minding Your Writer’s Mind

  1. You are a riot. I love coming here to chill out and read your rants. Jeff Goins just posted his Writer’s Manifesto and it was about not writing for applause. We gotta get back to the business of writing for the love of writing. I also just came to the realization that I can’t write for conversations sake. I can’t worry about comments and how many clicks and shares I get. I just need to write. Keep being you and you will attract the right readers. Love the new wordpress digs! And the comment box is so easy to use. Yippee! (the little number thing at the bottom is so hard to see, I almost did not realize I was suppose to do math here – leave yourself a comment and you will see what I mean)


    • Thanks, Nicole! It seems to me in the blogging game that somewhere along the line, the desire for hollow victories(clicks n’ comments) becomes the endgame, rather than the art of self-expresion. Buying followers and sheep herding follows suit. Yeah, like if I can’t laugh at my own jokes, what’s the point in telling them to anyone else?

      Also, I’m still working the kinks out of the WordPress migration here so thanks for the tip on ‘doing the math’. Just changed out the captcha plugin for a different ‘comment spam’ preventer. Hopefully, this one is less anxiety raising. 😛


  2. Love this – thank you! When a writer speaks from the heart, it resonates with me. I can tell when a writer is just trying to write for the market. So, please keep writing from your heart (and mind! – well, not that you wouldn’t – just want to emphasize that you are spot on. okay, I’m going to end this parentheses now…) – it resonates and people see it!


    • Thanks for your great comment, Robin! I try to write from my heart, sincerely I really do! Yet, as always, my mind gets in the way. So at least, I try to ‘speak’ my mind … and my heart usually concurs. 🙂


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