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WriteCast Episode 35: A Brief Daily Session Walk-Through—Mindful Writing, Part 2

© Walden University Writing Center 2017

 

[Introduction music]

 

BRITTANY: Welcome to WriteCast: A Casual Conversation for Serious Writers. I’m Brittany Kallman Arneson,

 

BETH: and I’m Beth Nastachowski.

 

BRITTANY: In today’s episode, we’ve invited back Max and Jes Philbrook, our guests from last month, to join us again and walk us through a mindful writing practice. So if you haven’t yet listened to the previous episode, which is episode 34, titled “Taking Care of Yourself with Mindful Writing,” we recommend that you do that first before listening to today’s episode because in that episode, Jes and Max explain what mindful writing is, what the benefits are, and how this might apply to Walden students.

 

BETH: So today Jes and Max are going to walk you through a brief, daily writing session, which is a part of the mindful writing practice they talked about last month. And the episode is planned so you can pause at several different moments and work on a writing project of your own during this time. You can pause for various lengths, depending on how much time you have available today. So if you have just a short time, that’s ok, but also if you have, you know, a longer time, maybe an hour or more – that works great as well. We do estimate that listening to today’s podcast and completing the mindful writing practice with Jes and Max will take approximately 40 to 70 minutes -- Sort of depending on how often you pause and how long you pause for.

 

BRITTANY: One other thing we want to mention is that isn’t the only time you can use this podcast episode. You can actually reuse it as many times as you want. Once you’ve gone through one of these brief, daily sessions with Max and Jes on the podcast today, you can go ahead and incorporate this into your own writing practice the next time you sit down and write and make this process your own. And you can either do that by continuing to listen to this podcast, or if you don’t feel you need the guidance of the podcast anymore, you can go ahead and just adopt the practices that Max and Jes are guiding you through in this podcast on your own.

 

BETH: So Max and Jes, welcome back to the podcast! We’re so glad that you’re here with us again today. And we are really excited to have you walk us through a mindful writing practice.

 

JES: Thank you Beth and Brittany! We are really excited to be back. It’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to return here to the podcast and guide students through one of these mindful writing sessions.

 

MAX: Absolutely. And, as a brief reminder from our last session, mindful writing is a writing practice that helps writers find more comfort and ease by focusing on the body and writing for only a set amount of time each day. Instead of sitting down and writing until your project is complete, mindful writing encourages you to break up writing projects into smaller pieces – working each day with a set intention. So, to get used to it, let’s practice mindful writing together.

 

JES: To get started, there’s a few things that you need to do to prepare. First, find something that you can work on. This could be a discussion post for a course, a chapter of your dissertation, a course paper, an application, or any other writing task that you need to accomplish. You can be at any stage in the writing process, including just starting, drafting, researching, revising, or proofreading. Try your best to find a project you can work on for 30 to 60 minutes a day. Also, find a timer you can use a bit later. A cell phone, oven kitchen timer, alarm clock, or online timer would work just fine. And then, feel free to pause the episode now if you some time to search through your files and find the right project and timer. It’s ok if it takes you a bit to find your project since a big part of this process is setting your intention.

So once you have your project picked out and your timer, we’re going to spend the next 30-60 minutes guiding you through a mindful writing session. There will be three times where we ask you to pause, and you can pause for anywhere between 10 to 20 minutes depending on how much time you have to write today. As we walk through this practice, we'll go through four stages. The first is prepare. The second is write. The third is pause. And the fourth is reflect. We'll do these middle two stages, write and pause, multiple times, so there will be three different short writing sessions today during this brief daily writing session.

 

MAX: Now that we all have the projects we're working on, we can start the first step: prepare. Let's start by gathering some comfort in our bodies. This is a very good way to begin your mindful writing session, with a focus on your body, trying to be comfortable. Since most of you are probably typing, let's do a few stretches that will be kind to those muscles we most use when writing. Take this opportunity to move and stretch the muscles you’ll use as you write. I’ll give you some ideas here for what you can do, but please, be sure and only do what’s comfortable and possible for you.

The way I like to start any writing session is by doing some hand circles. Won’t you join me? Hold your arms out in front of you with your fingers pointing outward. Now, create circles with your hands. Do you feel the stretch in your wrists? Do a few in one direction, and now do a few in the other direction. Be conscious of those muscles that you’re using and that you will use as you write today.

And, since most of us sit while writing, once you’re finished with your wrist stretches, let's slowly and gently stretch out our backs. With our feet planted on the ground, place your right hand on your left knee. Now slowly turn your body towards that left knee. Feel the stretch in your back. Stretch only as far as is comfortable. And now that you feel a little bit of looseness in your back, let’s return to center, bringing your body back into alignment. And recreate the stretch on the other side. Place your hand - your left hand - on your right knee and slowly move into the stretch, rotating your body to the right. Do you feel the stretch in the back muscles that you will use to support you as you are sitting and writing today? Great!

Now return to center, and let’s focus on our neck. There’s a lot of pressure on our necks while we write, so let's stretch them out. Drop your chin into your chest slowly and gently. And now trace a great big circle with your neck by slowly pointing your nose towards your left shoulder. Continue the circle pointing up, and then point your chin towards your right shoulder, all the while being mindful of the stretches you feel. And then, when you return to your chest, repeat the stretch to the left side. Or, you can reverse it and go to the right side. Remember, move slowly and only do what feels good and relaxing. If you feel any discomfort, stop that stretch, and stretch your neck in a different way. Alright, now take a few moments to stretch and move any other parts of your body that you'd like to bring some comfort and attention to before we begin. These first few moments of stretching hopefully helped you reconnect to your body, which will make it easier to focus on your body later once we’re in the middle of our writing sessions.

 

JES: Another part of preparing is to set an intention. So, now that your body is a little bit more comfortable and you have a project to work on, take a moment to set an intention for the session. In the session, you should work on some writing, but keep in mind that the definition of writing is flexible. Writing can include freewriting in response to a prompt, outlining, taking notes on something you read, reviewing research, writing new material, or even revising or proofreading. The definition of writing is quite flexible here. You know your project best, so think about where you are in your project and what’s most useful to you today. Then, consider: what do you hope to accomplish today? How much time do you have to devote to this writing project? Do you have 30 minutes today? 45? 60? In the time that you have available, what can you reasonably accomplish in that time? Now this part of the process is important because it is best not to set intentions that are unmanageable for the time you have allowed. For example, if you only have 60 minutes for today, you probably are not going to write the entirety of a 10 page paper in that time. So set intentions that are reasonable. For example, do you want to do some freewriting in response to your next discussion post? Or, would you like to revise a paragraph from your capstone? Would you perhaps like to take notes on an article you’re reading? Your intention doesn’t need to be grand. It doesn’t need to be a huge part of your project. It just needs to be something you can reasonably accomplish in the time you have today. So, take a moment, jot down your intention, and if you get distracted during this session, return to your intention and remind yourself of your goal.

 

MAX: And now we're going to begin our second step: writing. While you write today, do your best to minimize distractions, so you’re sure you’re using your time today as best you can. Focus for these 10-20 minutes and work toward the intention you’ve just set. So, when you hear the tone, pause the playback on the podcast and write with focus and intention for between 10 and 20 minutes, depending on how much time you set aside. Use your timer so you know exactly when to be done. Then, when your timer goes off, press play again on the podcast and we'll take a comfort break together. Happy mindful writing. See you in 10-20 minutes.

 

[BING sound]

 

JES: Great job! Welcome back. No matter what you did during that session, if you were writing and focused you were successful. And that was the first of three short sessions that we’re going to do today. So this is kind of the next step in the process. Pause. Instead of just writing for 60 minutes straight, if that’s the time you have available today, doing mindful writing includes these comfort checks where you pause every 10 to 20 minutes to check your body. So let's do a quick comfort check, and move into our next writing session.

So in doing this comfort check, take a moment and focus your attention on your body. Do any of your muscles contain tension? Are you sore in your wrists or your back or your legs? How were you sitting or standing or laying as you were writing?  Pay attention to those things and if you notice any sore muscles or places where there’s tension, take a moment to stretch, move, come back to the body and relieve this tension. If you've been working for only 10 minutes, a quick stretch might do it. You haven’t been sitting all that long. But, if you've been working for 20 minutes, you might want to get up and move around for a minute and then settle back into your writing. For example, right now, I’m feeling the need to stretch my wrists, do some rotations with my core to relieve some tensions in my lower back. And if I weren’t plugged into the computer recording, I might do some toe touches and walk in place for a minute. Do what feels right for you. Then, when you hear the bing coming up, pause the episode again and set your timer for another 10-20 minutes, depending on the time you have available. In that time, continue working with focus as you work toward the intention you set earlier, repeating step two: write. Then, when your timer goes off, even if you're in the groove and your writing is flowing, still stop writing, press playback again on the podcast, and come back to refocus on the body during our next comfort break.

 

[BING sound]

 

MAX: Welcome back! Congratulations on completing even more writing. So you’ve been writing for about 10 or 20 minutes, however much time you set aside, and so now, let's do step three again and pause our writing to return to an awareness of our body. And let’s do that this time by focusing on our breathing. Take deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. [Takes two deep breaths] Sit up straight to maximize air flow, if possible. And just concentrate on the sensation of breathing. Do you feel the air flowing through your body? Do you feel the way your body moves as you’re breathing? Concentrate on that sensation, and as you are doing so, adjust your body for comfort. [Takes a deep breath.] Do you have any tension? If you do, do some of your stretches to release it, and keep breathing. [Takes a deep breath.] And now, as you continue to breath, begin this next brief writing session and press pause when you hear the tone. Don’t forget to set your timer again for 10 or 20 minutes or however long, and write the entire time working toward your previously stated writing intention. When your timer goes off, click play and join us again with the podcast. Ready?

 

[BING sound.]

 

JES: Welcome back and good work. Even if you were in the middle of a sentence when you stopped, resist that urge to work more. You did your writing for the day, and you get to stop! Now that we've finished our third and final writing session, let's take a look at what we accomplished on our writing projects today, doing step 4 of this process: reflect. Consider these questions as you reflect: How do you feel? What did you accomplish today? How did you work towards your intentions? What would you like to work on tomorrow? These are the kinds of questions that are useful to consider as you’re ending a brief daily writing session and preparing for the next day.

At the end of each brief, daily writing session it’s a good idea to make some intentions for the next day. So, take a minute to think in response to these questions that I just said, and write an intention or goal for tomorrow's brief daily session. You might want to consider what did you do today and do you need to do tomorrow? Tomorrow then, pick up where you left off in your next writing session. If you need to pause the podcast for a moment to do this reflection and set your goals and intentions for tomorrow, go right ahead. Take the time you need to reflect and then we’ll gather together again. [BING sound.]

 

MAX: You did good work today. Even if what you've written doesn't look like polished scholarly writing, that's okay. Writing is a process, and coming back to your writing regularly and being mindful as you write makes the process more comfortable, more manageable, and more likely that you'll return to it again tomorrow. A traditional writing process involves so many stages from brainstorming to outline, drafting, revising, and editing. By working on your project for the time you did today, you accomplished writing at one of these stages, and you know what? That’s progress! Great job! Thanks everyone, for listening and writing along with us today. We hope you got a lot out of it, and we wish you peace, kindness, and comfort as you work towards developing a writing practice that works for you.

 

JES: We really hope that what you accomplished today motivates you to return tomorrow as well and that you won’t dread your writing time because your body is more comfortable, and you know you’re committing only to a specific amount of time. To make this more of a regular practice, try to set aside 30 minutes to two hours each day to work on your projects, rather than setting aside an entire day to work on it. Spreading your projects out over several days, rather than trying to complete it in one setting, can harness a writing practice that allows you to treat yourself with kindness and care. Well done.

 

BETH: That was fantastic, Max and Jes. Thank you so much for leading us through that, and I know our students who have made it this far will find it extremely useful both sort of following along here and then being able to apply this to their writing in the future as well.

 

BRITTANY: Yeah, thank you so much you guys for joining us for these last two episodes. It’s been so fascinating to learn from you about mindful writing. And I’m really grateful you’ve been willing to share what you know with our students. For you students who went through this practice with Max and Jes today, we really want to hear from you. We’re curious about your experience with this and if it worked for you, how it worked for you, and so please do reach out to us and let us know what it felt like to do a mindful writing practice, to do a brief daily session with Max and Jes. You can write us an email, of course, as always at writingsupport@waldenu.edu or you can comment on the blog post that’s connected to this episode, or reach out to us on social media or any other way that you’re used to getting in touch with us. Take care!

 

[Music]

 

BRITTANY: WriteCast is a production of the Walden University Writing Center. This episode was produced by me, Brittany Kallman Arneson; my co-host, Beth Nastachowski; and our colleague, Anne Shiell.