Sunday, January 13, 2019

Mindful Writing

“Fortune favors the prepared mind.” - Louis Pasteur 
In a world that demands more and more of our time and attention, distracting us from the page and from the inner workings of our mind, a writer has to work even harder these days to carve out the quiet time to think and write. 

But there’s hope that we might find the quietness we need to write thanks to Brenda Miller and Holly J. Hughes. Their book, The Pen and the Bell (Skinner House Books, Boston), is a collection of personal essays, along with helpful writing and contemplation exercises, all designed to inspire writers to find a way of writing mindfully in a busy world.

From the opening pages, Miller and Hughes point writers gently toward a new understanding of the writing process.  “Wouldn’t it be wonderful,” ask the authors, “to feel that each day we’re granted an ‘honor and a task,’ and each day to know that we can easily do the work—with pleasure, focus, and joy?” 

For those who love to write, suggest the authors, or think they might love to write if they could simply find the time to do it, "this honor and task could be sitting down with our minds wide open, our pens and notebooks and computers at the ready, to articulate our perceptions as accurately and as beautifully as we can.”

On page after page, the authors encourage writers to regain a sense of their inner spirit, and they remind us that “writing serves a purpose greater than the product alone.”

Beginning with the first chapter (“Sitting Down and Waking Up”) and proceeding to the last (“Balancing Contemplation and Action”), you’ll find the wisdom of two writers who will inspire you to sit down and write.

Wisdom like this: 
The word discipline is an extension of the word disciple, and if we consider ourselves disciples of writing, we might find the energy and devotion we need to keep going, even when it feels like the practice is arduous. (p. 44)
or this:
So we don't need to have big ideas in order to start writing. We can start right in with the chores, with the laundry, with the messiness of our lives. We can focus and be fully awake, no matter what we are doing. We need to learn to create room within our lives, not outside of them, in order to expand the space for both spirituality and writing. (p. 56)
Not only are Hughes and Miller wonderful guides sharing parts of their own writing journeys, they are sympathetic and understanding companions who offer encouragement for you to make your own journey and to find the space you need to write.

The Pen and the Bell is a book about becoming “a bell awakened,” which, as the authors note, is about finding a path into our deeper selves, and about being able to share that self—and the authenticity of that self—on the page with others. 

The pen in the title, they explain, refers to the writing process, the bell to those things that can support the writing process. 

If you can get hold of this book and spend time with Miller and Hughes, you’ll find that your writing—your approach to writing, your sense of self as a writer—will deepen and grow in ways that you might not have expected. 

And over time, as you savor each page and mull over the exercises at the end of each chapter, you’re more than likely to find that contemplative state of mind.

That’s because, thanks to Miller and Hughes, you’ll have learned to listen and absorb as much of the world around you as you can.

For more information about The Pen and the Bell and its two authors, visit:

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