Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mindful Writing

As I took my writing course, I thought: How can I ensure that I incorporate what I learnt into my writing all the time? I was never a good writer and it puzzles me how good writers can include varying sentence structures and metaphors without much effort. For me to write something that I can be proud of, I have to edit my work for countless times.

It occurred to me that to write well, we have to be mindful of our thoughts and what we are writing about. Often, I fall prey to scribbling down whatever comes to my mind- without a conscious effort to organize and evaluate them. How can I convey a clear message to my readers when I can't even filter out what is essential and relevant?

This simply reflects the number of thoughts going through my head, when I don't even have the capacity to deal with them all. Similarly, with so many thoughts fleeting through our consciousness, do you think we have the capacity to pick them out, evaluate them and decide if we should/should not carry them out in speech or action? Yes, we do. To develop this capacity, we have to develop mindfulness- objective mindfulness. (And as I type this paragraph, I wonder if good writers are more mindful individuals as well.)

Have you ever encountered a situation in which you try to edit your writing, but everything seems perfect to you. However, after the assignment is graded and returned to you, you did worse than you expected? Then when you re-read your piece, you realised that there are many mistakes actually?

This reminds me of myself when I'm being overly emotional -- not practising uppekha. I think that I'm right. I think that there's nothing wrong, it is the other party's issue. I think that there could be no better way to do something and people rejected my suggestion due to prejudice. In other words, because I am so blinded by my own ego, I fail to look at things objectively.

Even when I am not being emotional, it is sometimes hard to reflect and spot my own mistakes. This could be because when I reflect, there is still that bit of biasness present that aims to protect my uber big ego. piak.

In psychology we learn something called the fundamental attribution error and self-serving bias. The former refers to the situation in which we tend to blame people's characters for something that went wrong. Seldom do we make the effort to consider the situation that people are in, failing to treat them with compassion or metta. I'm a major culprit of this. People are late because they're lazy. People don't do well because they don't put in effort. I haven't been considerate enough.

The self-serving bias refers to which we tend to blame the environmental factors when we commit something wrong. "My mother cooked lunch so I had to stay and hence I was late" instead of "I failed to inform my mother that I had to go out and wouldn't be able to stay for lunch". "I failed the exam because the lecturer was too lousy at explaining the concepts" instead of "I didn't put in enough effort". If we could put ourselves into other people's shoes and consider the factors/conditions that might have caused the situation, we can be more compassionate and tolerant. I aim to put in effort to achieve this.

Like how I have to make conscious effort when producing a good piece of writing, I have to make the same effort to purify my mind. Only when I have attained a level of mindfulness will these because the natural reflexes of my brain, just like how good writers write well because "it just comes to them". It's all about changing the habitual pathways our neurotransmitters tend to take, which can be changed through meditation.


Confession: I had an anger outburst yesterday and threw chopsticks at ernest.

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