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Key Strategies for Effective Mindful Writing: Establishing Initial Disciplines

Updated on September 27, 2020
TimRBerman profile image

Founder and content strategist for Damascus Way Recovery and Mormon Apologia. Writing content focusing on maturing in faith and spirituality

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Introduction

Successful mindful writing requires established disciplines. Implementing these may determine motivation and commitment toward one’s writing goals. And, with all artistic endeavors, mindful creative writing requires consistent development of these disciplines. One recommendation is over at Now Novel where Writing Discipline: 7 Strategies to Keep You Writing Your Novel are explored:

  1. Identify and understand where your lack of writing discipline stems from
  2. Start writing small and build up
  3. Get external accountability and feedback from a group or mentor
  4. Increase writing’s sense of reward
  5. Create the flow you need to keep writing
  6. Document – track – your writing progress
  7. Get enough exercise and rest

All of these strategies are really good – especially if you are wanting to commit to writing a novel. However, what if you are not wanting to write a novel? Maybe you are more prone to writing short stories? How about developing content for a blog (either your own or as a guest contributor)? Either way, these strategies may be just as helpful to any other form of writing.

Here are some strategies I may suggest that might work for you. These strategies are more specific for content one may want to publish to a website, blog, or other online medium. These strategies may also be helpful with short story, novella, and novel writing.

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Have a Clear Understanding and Purpose for Your Writing

It is one thing to say, I am going to sit down and start writing that novel. And, this is good for something like National Novel Writing Month. It may not be beneficial for a more long term writing career. And, I do recommend a person take part in this yearly frantic endeavor as a challenge to writing. Nor is it recommended to quickly type out particular content that will be published online. Establishing initial strategies and disciplines may elevate your writing, voice, style, and possible readership. That is what engaging content does. It not only engages the audience to consider something; it also engages the reader to take a specific action.

Thus, real and authentic writing requires a clear understanding and purpose. This provides the audience a genuine experience in understanding where the writer is coming from – even if they may disagree.

According to the University of Pacific Writing in the Disciplines there are these four factors to consider:

  1. Writing is both a central form and reliable measure of critical inquiry. Lucid, incisive writing can only result from clear, sharp thinking.
  2. Writing is a systematic process that involves multiple drafts, solicitation and use of feedback, revision, further responses, reflection, and final editing.
  3. Good writing has a clear purpose and is discipline-, audience-, and context-specific.
  4. Improvement in writing occurs over time and is best understood as a life-long process.

Without a clear understanding and purpose for one’s writing: the message one wishes to convey may be lost to the reader. Consider this basic, and sage, writing advice:

  1. Narrative: We are writing to narrate an event or series of events
  2. Expository: We are writing to provide an explanation and information
  3. Descriptive: We are attempting to describe something
  4. Persuasive: We are attempting to persuade

As a seasoned writer, we come to understand that our voice and style combines all four elements. What we want to do is develop an initial understanding of how we are going to narrate, provide an explanation and share information, where we are descriptive, and our message is persuasive. This is the very foundation of our writing discipline.

Another consideration is the attitude, or tone, that one’s audience may pick up. This includes:

  • Our personal feelings pertaining to the particular subject we are writing
  • Word choices, sentence structure, and figurative language being utilized
  • Details, reasons, and evidences supporting the subject

Developing the right type of attitude will determine whether or not the reader will understand the message. This fits within our clear understanding and purpose of writing. As writing is a passionate form of communication and expression. If our writing is vague, lacking any supportive evidence, or poorly constructed, then the attitude may come across as being lazy and slothful. If our writing comes across with strong language that is vitriolic we may risk causing our readers to be offended and even communicate defensively (think about some of the social media commentary going on regarding particular hot topic content). It is our disciplined goal to be objective, while remaining passionate, regarding particular subjects.

Consider what Purdue University shares regarding a writer’s attitude:

Attitude is related to purpose and is a much-overlooked element of rhetorical situations. But attitude affects a great deal of how a rhetorical situation unfolds. Consider if an author communicates with a flippant attitude as opposed to a serious attitude, or with drama as opposed to comedy, or calmly as opposed to excitedly. Depending on authors’ purposes, audiences’ specific qualities, the nature of the context, and other factors, any of these attitudes could either help or hinder authors in their efforts to communicate depending on the other factors in any given rhetorical situation. Like authors, audiences bring diverse attitudes to how they appreciate different pieces of communication. The audience’s attitude while reading, listening, observing, or whatnot affects how they receive and process the communication they receive.

What we write matters. When there is a defined sense of meaning and purpose in how we are providing information we are engaging the audience. Engaging the audience to develop their own awareness and take necessary action.

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Define Your Specific Writing Goals

Once you have established, and defined, your sense of meaning and purpose for your writing. It is time to establish the discipline of defining specific writing goals. This helps us maintain structure and focus. Without establishing, and defining, our specific writing goals – we may fall prey to procrastination. Reason for this is because we are left to our own devices when it comes to writing. It is one thing to write an email. It is another to write an academic paper that has a specific deadline. However, when we are home, there are many other things that may distract us from settling down at the computer and start writing.

Effective, and mindful creative, writing begins when we adequately answer these three questions:

  1. Is it measurable?
  2. Is it meaningful?
  3. Is it attainable?

Moira Allen shares these insights, on how to best answer these key questions, over at Writing World:

Writing Goals that are Measurable

According to Allen, our writing ought to focus on being quantifiable and not qualitative. All writer’s want to be good writers. They also want to better and successful. These are more qualitative. It is far better to focus more on what we are producing consistently than what we are desiring to attain.

Take for instance a writer’s desire to become a full-time freelancer. Stating a goal – I want to be a successful freelance writer and work from home is a qualitative goal. While there is nothing wrong with this – it is not specific enough or measurable. Instead, a quantifiable goal may look more like – by devoting time to researching, developing clear, and concise content, I will produce a portfolio to help increase my opportunity to become a freelance writer. The latter is specific and entails what a person is going to do to accomplish what they desire. This takes discipline.

Writing Goals that are Attainable

The second question we want to answer is if the goal is attainable. Here is what Allen shares:

To set attainable goals, you must be honest with yourself about what you are able to achieve at this stage in your writing career. If you have never earned a penny from writing, for example, it would be unrealistic to set the goal of becoming “self-supporting” in a year. Similarly, if you’ve never written anything longer than the annual holiday newsletter, it would probably be unrealistic to expect yourself to complete a 600-page novel in six months.

This requires some self-examination and taking inventory. By assessing our ability, weaknesses, and other obligations – we are moving to a more realistic approach to writing. This may be doing some research. Attending writing workshops. Getting connected and networking, establishing daily routines, and managing our time. It also means being honest with what we are physically capable of doing. Not every person is able to leave their main job and stay at home and produce enough income to survive. Realistically, almost all freelance writer’s had to build up in order to get to a place where they are comfortable transitioning from full time work to stay-at-home freelance work.

Writing Goals that are Meaningful

There is a reason someone wants to become a writer. Whether it is producing the next New York Times Bestselling novel, or, producing engaging content that goes viral on social media. Defining what it means for us to write helps us focus on those specific goals we want to accomplish. In addition, our writing goals that are meaningful also focuses back on whether it is attainable. For instance, and Allen mentions this in the article linked above, one may commit to writing every morning when they wake up. After a few days, it may become too much of a chore and the desire to continue is no longer there.

For me, meaningful writing goals also focuses on what I am wanting to say that reflects my own personal values and beliefs. Understanding my own personal biased and prejudices helps develop a more mindful approach in being empathetic, compassionate, kind, and objective. This gives more commitment and motivation for writing. Aligning our values and beliefs with writing goals helps us focus on what is important. It is the framework of having a sense of urgency. Helps us produce better content that is thoughtful, impacting, and motivating to take action.

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Eliminate Procrastination and Start Doing

Establishing, and identifying, our meaning and purpose for writing. Develop and implement specific goals for our writing that is measurable, meaningful, and attainable. We now turn to the fundamental key strategy of implementing a more discipline approach to writing. Identifying and dealing with procrastination will improve our commitment and motivation to write what we are passionate about. No, this is not a quick fix scheme that is magically waved around. It is more of a practical suggestion in dealing with what all writer’s deal with. And, to help you understand how important it is to work on minimizing one’s procrastination; the Writing Center at the University of North Caroline at Chapel Hill has a handout on this.

A more intriguing article on writing and procrastination is written by Megan Mcardle and published in the Atlantic on February 12, 2014. Her piece, appropriately titled: Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators, provides some interesting takes on this phenomena. Here is a snippet of what she shares:

If you’ve spent most of your life cruising ahead on natural ability, doing what came easily and quickly, every word you write becomes a test of just how much ability you have, every article a referendum on how good a writer you are. As long as you have not written that article, that speech, that novel, it could still be good. Before you take to the keys, you are Proust and Oscar Wilde and George Orwell all rolled up into one delicious package. By the time you’re finished, you’re more like one of those 1940’s pulp hacks who strung hundred-page paragraphs together with semicolons because it was too much effort to figure out where the sentence should end.

And, I personally find this to be true of myself. It is easy to get lost in delusions of grandeur of writing. However, when it comes to the actual work that needs to be done. The level of motivation and commitment it takes. The juggling act of balancing writing life with responsible living. Those delusions of grandeur shatter on the jagged rocks of reality. So, what is our reasons for procrastinating? Mcardle mentions the following observation:

  • Fear of not producing something
  • Embracing the Hard Work

As writer’s, we may have developed an unhealthy fear of failure. Constantly criticizing our own work. Sabotaging our own efforts to develop a healthy writing lifestyle and discipline. And, the level of commitment required to embrace what it takes to be a writer. For instance, it is not just allowing one’s fingertips to happily tap dance along the keypad. There is the reading, editing, rewrite, constructive (and the oft destructive) feedback, and more rewriting until one achieves a polished draft.

How do we overcome our fear and tenacity to procrastinate?

Over at Well Storied Kristen Kieffer provides these Four Steps to Overcoming Procrastination:

  1. Identify the cause of one’s reason to procrastinate
  2. Lessen the pain
  3. Discover your pressure points
  4. Implement a reward and anti-reward system

As with all disciplines, alleviating procrastination takes time. Establishing initial disciplines may determine one’s success or failure in writing. These are merely recommendations and observations. Hopefully they may work for you. And, if they don’t, take what does work for you. Part of establishing initial disciplines for successful mindful writing is discovering what may work for you to be successful. Meaning, what gives you a sense of meaning and purpose in writing, how that message is relayed to your audience, and developing ways to overcome procrastination.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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