Meditation: A Writing Exercise

CC image by Caleb Roenigk

CC image by cmkalina

CC image by cmkalina

There are tons of ways to meditate. Entire books are written on the subject. Today, I’d like to share just one with you. As I was dwelling on this technique, I realized how useful it could be as a writing exercise for setting. Because it’s one of the fundamental aspects of storytelling, setting deserves practice and intentional use in whatever you’re writing. My hope is that you’ll get at least one good setting detail from this exercise for whatever you’re working on. Maybe you’ll even get the beginning, the tiny seed, of an entirely new story.

If you’re game, close your eyes and settle in to try this meditation turned writing exercise. Doesn’t matter where you are, whether alone in your room or at a table in a coffee shop full of chatting people. It’s all good.

Listen to the sounds of your own body—your breath, the beating of your heart. Is your stomach gurgling? Does the fabric of your clothes whisper as you cross and uncross your legs? What does your swallow sound like?

Now let your hearing wander farther. What are the sounds in the room with you? Does your computer hum? What are the people at the next table arguing about? How would you describe the sound of the heater or A/C—purring, beastly, grinding?

Let your hearing wander farther still. What’s going on in the hallway? If you’re at home, what about those mysterious house noises—the creaking of wooden floors, the roof getting more comfortable, that drip from the kitchen sink. Out to coffee? What can you hear coming from the other side of the place, from the order counter or the front door?

Now bring your attention back layer by layer, your hearing back to neutral. Take out a pen and paper or your laptop and write what you heard.

CC image by Caleb Roenigk

CC image by Caleb Roenigk

Capture those details that stuck out the most to you, those with something special to them. Maybe the old lady at the table next to you used a word so foul it made you blush—could there be a story there? Or perhaps the rhythmic, unrelenting sound of that awful whistle as air flowed in and out of your nose has potential. Or maybe you didn’t get anything you’re wild about out of the exercise this time. Regardless, try it again, at different times and in different places. Perhaps next time, you can try this same exercise but with sight or smell instead of sound. Good writers pay attention, so calm your mind and take in all that’s around you.

By Madeleine Mozley