Whenever I make a sandwich, or toast, and get bread out, I always say the word mindful to myself as I remove the clip or tie from the bread. This is a reminder to myself to remember—be mindful—of where I set down the item so when I’m done with the bread, I’ll have no trouble closing it back up. Over the years, repeating mindful to myself has become habitual, and I never lose a bread tie.
The same principle can apply to all sorts of things, such as keys, a file on your computer, where you parked your car. Remember to remember where you put things, and you won’t forget where they are. Yeah, it’s sort of obvious, but if we did it all the time, we wouldn’t lose things. And we do lose things.
Fact is, most of the time we are not mindful. We are sloppy, or lazy, or too busy to worry about the details, our minds on too many things at once. Our minds are full, and so we aren’t mindful. (Now, doesn’t it seem mindful is a strange word to mean being aware? I guess it’s supposed to mean your mind is full of awareness. Or some such.)
When it comes to writing, I believe in the same principle of mindfulness, although I confess it’s not at all as straightforward to make it habitual. We should be careful to put every word in the correct place, every detail in the correct scene, every character in the correct story. And so forth. But you can’t always tell what’s correct as you’re writing.
Fortunately, writing, unlike life, gives you the chance for revision. You can practice mindful writing up to a point, but ruthless editing is likely to be even more helpful in this regard. In my case, I benefit greatly from having outstanding readers in my writing group who can point out all the wasted words I spew—criticism that makes sense as soon as I hear it even when I’m blind to it on my own. (Although I’m learning and becoming more and more mindful while I’m writing.)
So that’s my story of mindfulness. Be mindful in writing and in life. Now perhaps I’ll go make a sandwich.
Follow B. K. Winstead on Twitter at @bkwins