Making My Choice – Mindfulness In Writing

mindful writing

I’ve written a piece, a personal piece, a piece that I honed and edited and re-worked until I felt proud of it. Now, when I read it through, it makes my heart sing. I’ve pitched it to newspaper editors. So far, I’ve had one polite decline.

Every morning I open my inbox with anticipation and a growing sense of urgency. Every morning my unfulfilled desire for a positive reply eats further into my equilibrium. I have to make a concerted effort to throw off the cloak of disappointment that seeks to bind disillusion to me.

One of the hardest things about writing is separating your ego from the work. Who isn’t excited by the prospect of having their words published? Who doesn’t feel a thrill of pride when an editor deems their thoughts worthy of print and promulgation?

But those feelings stifle that elusive spring of creativity. Like a kidnapper pulling a bag down over your head, they block out the light of inspiration and leave you to wander in the darkness of uncertainty, no end in sight. Every day that fails to yield a positive result gives more authority to the voice in my head that whispers, “Well, what did you expect? You’re not really a writer are you? Did you think you had some kind of gift that made you stand out from the all those others striving for written clarity of meaning? Don’t kid yourself!” Each day it’s harder to ignore.

But there’s a weapon I can use against this assault. It’s one I’m becoming more familiar with through my study and practice of mindfulness. It’s been there all along but I learnt to overlook it a long time ago – to the point where I no longer even registered it’s existence, like a piece of furniture that’s remained unmoved in a room for as long as you can remember. It’s called Choice. I remind myself that the growing urgency and creeping self-doubt are symptoms of pressure that I am putting on myself. I have no-one else to answer to. It’s purely my wish to get my piece published. I can just as easily choose to let it go. I carry my art within me, I can write as many pieces as I wish and send each one out into the world, like paper boats floating down a stream. Each one, as I polish and perfect it, will give me the same pleasure and sense of achievement. And each one will add to my skills, not deplete them. Outside validation is irrelevant and only carries the value I attribute to it. I don’t need it to acknowledge my worth.

Yesterday I started writing another piece, one I’ve been looking forward to for a while. Over the past few weeks, every time I thought of something I wanted to include in it, a frisson of pure joy ran through me in anticipation. THAT’S what it’s all about. Even if I had a hundred pieces published in the paper, if I felt nothing while I wrote them what would be the point? I’ll get through to those media Philistines when I’m meant to. In the meantime, I’ve realised I have all I need to be happy. I guess I should thank them for that!

Ray Bradbury summed it up when he said,

“I want your loves to be multiple. I don’t want you to be a snob about anything. Anything you love, you do it. It’s got to be with a great sense of fun. Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun with it. Ignore the authors who say ‘Oh, my God, what word? Oh, Jesus Christ…,’ you know. Now, to hell with that. It’s not work. If it’s work, stop and do something else.”

Whitby Shores, Whitby, Ontario

By Aisha Ashraf

An autistic Irish immigrant in a cross-cultural marriage, Aisha Ashraf is the archetypal outlander, writing to root herself through place and perspective. Published in The Rumpus, The Maine Review, River Teeth, HuffPost and elsewhere, her work explores the legacy of trauma, the nature of being an outsider and the narrow confines of belonging. She currently lives in Canada.


  1. Great analogy with the kidnapper’s bag! I for one, and I know I’m not your only fan, am glad you’ve found a way of seeing your writing in a positive light and of keeping going. Sooner or later, your work will get the recognition it deserves. Just hang in there and continue enjoying what you write. It shows in your work and makes it a pleasure to read, too.

  2. Well am delighted there is someone out there who feels just like me! When an idea comes to me, it is almost like Christmas in the anticipation of writing it. I am desperate to do it, but in the same way that going to the toilet for a wee is a million times better when you have had your legs crossed for ages, the longer I wait the more I savour the moment when I eventually put fingers to keyboard. And you are so right. It is not the being published, it is enough to get pleasure from actual writing, although we would not be human if people did not pat us on the back from time to time and say well done. That is why I love blogging, as people tell you they liked what you said, or not. Just think in a national newspaper today and tomorrows fish and chip wrapping! Great piece. Thanks Aisha.

    1. Thanks Lindsay! Loving the wee analogy there – I’ll never think of gushing torrents of words in the same way again! It’s true what you say though, the longer you delay, the greater the satisfaction when you finally get it down.

    1. Thanks Maggie, and sorry to hear of your loss. I know it’s already been said but at least your grandmother lived to see you become an author x

  3. You’ve hit on the one simple truth: while we may wish to be published (i.e., given the seal of approval and read by others), it is the NEED to write within us that is strongest. You have much to say, so continue learning the craft through books, courses, articles, a strong writing group. You’ll find that the little things that are impediments to your writing will start to fall away.

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