Writing “into the moment” rather than “about the moment” allows you to slow down and appreciate where you are. This practice can help writers be writers. And crazy-busy people be just plain ol’ busy and not so much crazy.
Think of it as a form of meditation. Except that, if you’re a writer, you’re also getting something accomplished and not just sitting there. To do this, you use the five senses to bring yourself fully into your experience. You will see how memory is fed and intuition is fired when you drink in everything deeply through the senses. In your dilated state, fully aware of the gross world, you are attuning your awareness so that it can become increasingly subtle. Writing about the sensory world “the world of the particulars” allows you to really immerse yourself. In meditation, they call this “mindfulness.”
But if you’re a busy person — one who is juggling so many things that it’s hard to slow down like that for big chunks of time — sometimes trying to honor a daily writing practice seems like one more thing to do. And it doesn’t feel urgent, so it gets put off. I know. I’ve been there.
When I was a smoker, even when I was crazy busy working full-time and going to graduate school full time, I used to take 5 minutes to go outside and smoke a cigarette. Suddenly everything just got put on hold for 5 whole minutes. It wasn’t a question of if I would do it. It happened like clockwork. Every hour or two, I’d take those 5 minutes and enjoy the sun on my skin and the wind in my hair. I don’t smoke anymore. But I often take these little breaks anyway.
It’s the perfect time to write about the sun and the wind in just a little writing “quickie.” One that feels like a stolen moment of down time.
Buddhist priest and writer Fiona Robyn calls these short snippets of writing into the moment “Small Stones.” She says two things define this writing practice: 1) it’s short and 2) it precisely captures a fully-engaged moment. Writing Small Stones is not only a mindfulness practice, it’s a creative practice that can get you living up to your potential as a writer.
It’s practices like these that help us build a consistent and feel-good writing life that I address in my Wholly Creative writing workshops. If you want to know more about them, you can go here. I have found that writing is my spiritual practice, and it’s important that I do it regularly and often to stay centered and grounded, which translates to sane and happy. If leading and attending workshops is like going to church; small stones are like daily prayers of gratitude. I need both.
These excerpts from well-known poets are fully engaged and small enough to be a small stone. The last one is by Fiona Robyn herself.
William Carlos Williams, From “Paterson: Book I”
nothing but the blank faces of the houses
and cylindrical trees
bent, forked by preconception and accident–
split, furrowed, creased, mottled, stained–
secret–into the body of the light!
Wallace Stevens, From “Of Mere Being”
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.
The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.
Dan Oestreich, From “Going to Sleep”
the sound of the creek
just after the rain stopped
trees still drip-dripping
and the clouds starting to break
wide open into
(I remember now)
a kind of blue peace
Fiona Robyn, From Small Stones
The sun sags in the sky. Half a lemon sits face down in a puddle, scenting the water with citrus. Everything tightens against the cold.
Take a break right now and write a Small Stone, and then share it in the comments section!