Contemplative Writing for Beginners

How to start practicing Contemplative Writing as a counter-measure to the automation of AI writing.

by Megan Fleming

As mentioned in our recent blog, “Will AI Take Over Writing? What Does the Future Hold for Writers?”, the act of writing can be an antidote to machine-composed drafts when it crosses over into contemplative practice. Adam Fleming explains,

Writing can be an act of contemplation. I learn so much about myself while I explore, that not only do my stories have those magical happy accidents while I’m drafting, but I also acquire greater understanding of myself as a person from the process. 

What is Contemplative Writing?

Contemplative writing is a combination of meditation and writing therapy, with discipline thrown in. People may be familiar with the type of writing that involves “dumping,” where one just lets the mind empty onto the page. However, Contemplative Writing has the added element of finding an effective prompt to get to some deeper life lessons, self-discovery, or even unresolved traumas, and includes debriefing. How to start this process? 

How to Start

Here are a few starting points for those who want to explore the practice of Contemplative Writing: 

  1. Schedule it. Start by setting aside the “safe time” and “safe space” as discussed in How to Start Writing Again.
  2. Set a timer. Twenty minutes is a great beginning target, and you can work up to as much as an hour or more, as needed or desired.
  3. Choose a prompt. Prompts can be as simple as, “What am I feeling now?” or “What do I see?” “What brought tears today/this week/this month?” “What brought me joy?” “How am I doing?” They could be more specific, such as, “What would my childhood self tell me about this?” “What would my inner mentor say?” “What is my inner critic saying?” 
  4. Don’t stop writing. Julia Cameron’s rule in The Artist’s Way is to keep writing, even if all you can think to write is “I can’t think of anything to write.” The goal is to practice getting the thoughts and feelings down, and keeping the writing going is an effective way to encourage that.
  5. Debrief. Do wait to read what you wrote. Revisit what you wrote after you’ve left it for a day or two. Then either share it in a safe group or with a friend who knows your journey; or read it to yourself. Take time to reflect: What are my take-aways from this session? What insights did I gain? What has happened in my thought process since I wrote this?
  6. Bonus for Authors: If you find yourself stuck on a plot element (fiction writers) or on an instructional point (non-fiction writers), try using a Contemplative Writing approach to get around the problem. This could be writing a prompt from your character’s perspective; choosing a prompt that allows your mind a complete break from your manuscript; or actually lifting out some insight from your Contemplative Writing practice sessions and placing it into your current writing project. 

Just a few more notes about the steps above: your “safe place and time” may vary according to your life stage and/or preferences. One person may find a private space with incense burning conducive to the practice, while others may find group sessions in a sunlit public space helpful in feeling supported and getting the accountability and empathy they need. Either way, taking the time and self-discipline to pursue this introspective exercise can be a key way to maintain emotional and spiritual health. What contemplative writing goals do you want to set this year?

Thanks to the following resources for informing this blog:

Megan Fleming is Lead Editor at Victory Vision Publishing. She has a Painting degree with a TESOL minor, and has taught Art and English to both students and adults. Her love of literature and clean copy merged when she began editing full time in 2020, and she has since been able to use her experience in MLA, Chicago, AP, and APA styles. Megan and her husband, Adam Fleming, live in a small Midwest town and have four children. Megan enjoys making her own art, gardening, pursuing a master’s degree, and reading fiction in between the cracks. 

Interested in getting to the next step? Click here for a free discovery meeting with Adam.

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