Fiction Writing Made Easy

#146. 6 Ways Mindfulness Can Make You A Happier & More Productive Writer With April Dávila

June 11, 2024 Savannah Gilbo Episode 146
#146. 6 Ways Mindfulness Can Make You A Happier & More Productive Writer With April Dávila
Fiction Writing Made Easy
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Fiction Writing Made Easy
#146. 6 Ways Mindfulness Can Make You A Happier & More Productive Writer With April Dávila
Jun 11, 2024 Episode 146
Savannah Gilbo

If you’ve ever felt frustrated with your progress (or lack of progress), it’s probably time to take a step back from your writing and consider your mindset.

To help you do just that, I’m sharing a conversation in today’s podcast episode with April Dávila, an award-winning author, speaker, and writing coach who specializes in teaching writers to integrate mediation into their writing practice.

Tune into this episode to hear us talk about how integrating mindfulness in her writing practice helped April push past writer’s block, write fewer drafts, craft more compelling characters, and so much more.

In the episode, you’ll hear us talk about things like:

  • [03:18] How April’s mindfulness practice helped her go from struggling to write her novel to getting an agent, selling her book, and winning awards
  • [07:20] What you can do in just 5-10 minutes per day to develop your own mindfulness practice—and how this can help you be a more focused writer
  • [10:20] How to identify the root cause of your writer’s block (and why this is so important in terms of your ability to banish writer’s block for good)
  • [12:54] Why understanding your emotions (and sitting with them even if they’re uncomfortable) is the key to writing characters that are rich and engaging
  • [20:19] April’s favorite tip for editing your own work more effectively (and how it’s not just about “taking time and space away from your draft”)
  • [29:35] Why it’s important to be kind and compassionate to yourself so that you don’t get burned out or end up feeling so discouraged that you quit writing

This is a super fun episode with my guest, April Dávila, and I can’t wait for you to hear her top 6 ways mindfulness can make you a happier and more productive writer.

Click here to listen!

⭐ Rate + Review + Follow on Apple Podcasts

"I love the Fiction Writing Made Easy podcast!" ← If that sounds like you, please consider rating and reviewing this show! Your rating and review will help other writers find this podcast, and they're also super fun for me to read. Just click here, scroll all the way to the bottom, tap five stars to rate the show, and then select "Write a Review." Be sure to let me know your favorite episodes, too!

Also, if you haven't done so already, make sure you're following the podcast! I'll be adding a bunch of bonus episodes to the feed, and if you're not following the show, there's a good chance you'll miss them. Click here to follow now!

🔗 Links mentioned in this episode:

👋 Interested in becoming a book coach? Click here to learn more about Author Accelerator's Book Coach Certification Program!

👉 Looking for a transcript? If you’re listening on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, scroll down below the episode player until you see the transcript.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

If you’ve ever felt frustrated with your progress (or lack of progress), it’s probably time to take a step back from your writing and consider your mindset.

To help you do just that, I’m sharing a conversation in today’s podcast episode with April Dávila, an award-winning author, speaker, and writing coach who specializes in teaching writers to integrate mediation into their writing practice.

Tune into this episode to hear us talk about how integrating mindfulness in her writing practice helped April push past writer’s block, write fewer drafts, craft more compelling characters, and so much more.

In the episode, you’ll hear us talk about things like:

  • [03:18] How April’s mindfulness practice helped her go from struggling to write her novel to getting an agent, selling her book, and winning awards
  • [07:20] What you can do in just 5-10 minutes per day to develop your own mindfulness practice—and how this can help you be a more focused writer
  • [10:20] How to identify the root cause of your writer’s block (and why this is so important in terms of your ability to banish writer’s block for good)
  • [12:54] Why understanding your emotions (and sitting with them even if they’re uncomfortable) is the key to writing characters that are rich and engaging
  • [20:19] April’s favorite tip for editing your own work more effectively (and how it’s not just about “taking time and space away from your draft”)
  • [29:35] Why it’s important to be kind and compassionate to yourself so that you don’t get burned out or end up feeling so discouraged that you quit writing

This is a super fun episode with my guest, April Dávila, and I can’t wait for you to hear her top 6 ways mindfulness can make you a happier and more productive writer.

Click here to listen!

⭐ Rate + Review + Follow on Apple Podcasts

"I love the Fiction Writing Made Easy podcast!" ← If that sounds like you, please consider rating and reviewing this show! Your rating and review will help other writers find this podcast, and they're also super fun for me to read. Just click here, scroll all the way to the bottom, tap five stars to rate the show, and then select "Write a Review." Be sure to let me know your favorite episodes, too!

Also, if you haven't done so already, make sure you're following the podcast! I'll be adding a bunch of bonus episodes to the feed, and if you're not following the show, there's a good chance you'll miss them. Click here to follow now!

🔗 Links mentioned in this episode:

👋 Interested in becoming a book coach? Click here to learn more about Author Accelerator's Book Coach Certification Program!

👉 Looking for a transcript? If you’re listening on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, scroll down below the episode player until you see the transcript.

Speaker 1:

But when we can use mindfulness to recognize or even bring to mind like if I'm writing a character who is really angry, I will do just a short meditation where I sit quietly and try to remember a time I was really angry and then stay with it long enough to write down the words that describe that Like. What does it feel like in your body when you're really angry or really sad or really in love or whatever that emotion is? We need to be able to slow down and recognize those emotions.

Speaker 2:

Welcome to the Fiction Writing Made Easy podcast. My name is Savannah Gilbo and I'm here to help you write a story that works. I want to prove to you that writing a novel doesn't have to be overwhelming, so each week, I'll bring you a brand new episode with simple, actionable and step-by-step strategies that you can implement in your writing right away. So, whether you're brand new to writing or more of a seasoned author looking to improve your craft, this podcast is for you. So pick up a pen and let's get started. In today's episode, we're going to talk about six ways mindfulness can make you a happier and more productive writer.

Speaker 2:

If you've ever felt frustrated with your progress, or if you've ever thought there has to be a better way to write a book without making yourself miserable because, let's be honest, writing can be super fun, but it can also be super frustrating and discouraging, sometimes too right. If you've ever felt any of those feelings, or if you just want to feel more grounded in your writing practice, you're going to love today's episode, and with me today I have April Davila, who is an award-winning author, speaker and writing coach. Publishers Weekly called her debut novel 142 Ostriches a vivid, uplifting debut, and the book went on to win the Willa Award for Women Writing the West. She's also a certified mindfulness instructor who teaches writers to integrate meditation into their writing practice. In the episode, you'll hear us talk about how developing a mindfulness practice changed April's writing life.

Speaker 2:

Today, she teaches six ways that integrating mindfulness into her writing practice helped her to push past writer's block, write fewer drafts, craft more compelling characters and so much more. April's going to share those six things with us today and give you some practical tips along the way. So, without further ado, let's dive right into my conversation with April Davila. That's all about the six ways mindfulness can make you a happier and more productive writer. Hi April, welcome to the Fiction Writing Made Easy podcast. Thank you so much for being here today.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for having me. I'm really excited to join you.

Speaker 2:

I'm super excited because we're going to talk about mindfulness, specifically six ways that mindfulness helps you to become a happier, more productive writer. But before we get into those juicy details, in your own words, can you tell us who you are and what you do?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so I am a fiction writer. I'm an award-winning, traditionally published fiction writer and I also, so I tend to write in the mornings on my own work and then in the afternoons I work with other fiction writers to help them figure out their novels, get their works published, and I do I really I love talking about writing and books and all of it. So, yeah, that's pretty much all I do Love it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and you're gonna. You're like a fiction nerd, right? I love it, me too. Yes, we're gonna link to where we can find you and all that in the show notes, but I love that. So you're obsessed with fiction. You found this track of mindfulness and how it helps you kind of unlock your potential when it comes to writing fiction. But how did you get to that point? So like, what was life like?

Speaker 1:

before that? Yeah, it's a great question. So for a long time I really struggled. I went back to school, so I got my undergraduate degree in biology, but then, in 2010, decided I really wanted to be a writer. I'd been writing as a hobby for a long time, went back to school and for like another six years I really struggled. I could not figure out the novel. My short stories were just rejected over and over and over again and I was like what am I doing? And then, around 2016, something started to shift where everything just kind of started working right. I figured out the novel, I got an agent, we sold the book, it won an award, my short story started getting published, I was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Like it just has been. Everything shifted.

Speaker 1:

And when I kind of turned around and looked at, okay, what did I start doing differently in 2016? One of the main things that I'd started doing was meditating regularly, and at first I was like, eh, correlation is not causation. My science brain kicked in. I'm like, no, that can't be it. But it kept nagging at me a little bit and so when I really stopped and thought about it, I was like, oh, wait a minute. Oh yeah, that helped and oh yeah, and that helped.

Speaker 1:

And over the years I've really come to break it down into six solid ways, very concrete, very neuroscientific ways that mindfulness has helped me become a happier, more productive writer. That tagline seems to just fit so well because that really sums it up and I'm really excited to talk about these six with you. But I didn't really set out on the path of, like, I'm going to meditate to become a better writer. It just kind of happened. And now that I realize how much it helped, I actually doubled down. I went and got a, I did a two-year certification program through UC Berkeley to become a mindfulness teacher and then integrated that into my writing coaching and now I get to share that with all of my writers and watch them reap the benefits of it as well.

Speaker 2:

It's been great. That's awesome, and I love what you said too, because you know some part of it is practice and it's like learning the craft. So you know, through studying and through actually doing and writing, you do learn the craft.

Speaker 2:

but I would argue that maybe more of it is mindset, because if you're not open to changing things or experimenting or getting rejected or things like that, you're never going to learn the craft anyway. So is this something that you find with the writers you work with that? So much of it is mindset and we often don't talk about that enough.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely yeah, so much of it is mindset, and on so many different levels too, and we can talk about that when we get into the six different things, but most of them are not directly related to craft. They facilitate craft, but mindfulness in and of itself isn't landing on the page. So, yeah, it's so much about mindset.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I find there's certain people that are kind of in the woo-woo camp, like that's me, right, I love the woo-woo and I love thinking of these like mindset hacks or, like you know, slowing down to make more progress and things like that. But there are other people who are kind of like I'm just going to stick to the craft, right. So I think you know, if you're one of those people and you're listening, I think April and I will both encourage you to have an open mind and just you know, think about is the process you're currently using working? If not, maybe just try one of these things and just see what happens.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely, and there's no harm in experimenting, and I always tell my writers I come at this with such a scientific background that I really think of it more like mind hacking than mindfulness. Almost Like it is mindfulness. It is in the mindfulness tradition, but the way I've always framed it is this idea of more of like getting to know how your brain works so that you can work with it, not against it, right?

Speaker 2:

Which is awesome, and it reminds me a lot of what, like, olympic athletes have to do too. So you know, there's no reason why it would work for someone like that and not for a creative writer, so I think that's a great setup. So, with all that, let's dive into the six ways. Do you want to go one by one? Do you want to recap them all first? Let's go one by one, that's probably easiest. Perfect. So what's number one, what's the first way?

Speaker 1:

Number one is just finding focus. Focus is in such short supply these days in our world that there's a meditation that I practice with my writers called insight meditation, where you focus on something for and I usually say 10 minutes is a really good pre writing meditation wanders, that's all you do. You're not trying to clear your mind, you're not trying to like, not think about anything, you just notice when your mind wanders, come back to the anchor over and over again, and then at the end of the 10 minutes you change that anchor to your writing. So you start writing and you just try to notice the thoughts that come up, so like you'll be writing. And what writer hasn't this hasn't had the experience.

Speaker 1:

If you start writing and then all of a sudden it's like, oh, I need to move the laundry along, right, so if you can notice that thought and just be like, okay, I'll do that when I'm done, you let that thought go, come back to the writing and it allows you to drop into a much deeper state of focus. And when you reach I mean that's why you get into flow, right, I used to be I would write once in a while and hope fingers crossed for that state of flow. And now with the mindfulness practice, I can like drop into that state of flow at will and just write, and write, and write, and it feels fantastic.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's awesome. And so you said the anchor. Is that something like in real life on our desk? Is it for me, Is it my dog? Is it something in our head Like what are we focusing on that's?

Speaker 1:

a great question and it really can be anything I usually encourage people to. You can start with the breath. If the breath because we all breathe, right, so we know that the breath is there for all of us. But for some people, focusing on the breath can make it feel really tight, like when I first started meditating. I could not focus on my breath. It made me really uncomfortable. So you can focus on the sounds in the room. You can absolutely put a pet in your lap and focus on the pet. Some people will light a candle and focus on the flame. Whatever it is that you can just come back to whenever you notice your mind has wandered. You just come back to that anchor over and over again.

Speaker 2:

That's great, okay, yeah, cause I'm one of those people that the breath thing doesn't work for me either. I start overthinking it and I'm like, am I doing this right? What is my heart rate doing? You know, I still think why am I breathing so deep? Like what am I breathing so deep? Like what am I doing it wrong? Yeah, so if you're like that too, if you're listening, I think there's a thing that I learned when I was dealing with anxiety a while ago, and it's like look at five things in the room to ground yourself and get ready to focus. You could touch five things. What are five things? You see, what are five things, you smell, whatever, and that kind of helps you center. And then you know it could be as simple. I have a scrunchie on my desk, I could just hold that and anchor myself with it.

Speaker 2:

Exactly Right, so it could be anything.

Speaker 1:

It's really just about reeling in the mind, because as writers we're particularly good at like spinning off into God knows where we can go to other universes and dragons, like you name it. So it's just really about coming into the present moment. Where are you right now?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. That's great, I love that you're like focus on the thing and then transfer it to the writing, and I feel like that would actually flow really nicely. Yeah, if that's okay, that's way number one. I love that. What's number two?

Speaker 1:

Okay. So number two is writer's block, dealing with writer's block, and it's kind of an extension of number one. Once you start to notice those thoughts that come up, you can start to. So I don't believe in writer's block. I think it's kind of a catch-all phrase that we use to describe whatever reason we're not writing. But when we start to get better at noticing those thoughts, we can start to think like why am I not writing?

Speaker 1:

As an example, I was on a retreat one time and I was teaching at it and I was getting up early to write on my novel before I went and taught and my alarm went off one morning and I was like I don't want to go write. And I heard that thought in my head and I was like I love writing. Where did that thought come from? And when I stopped and I took the thought and actually analyzed a little bit, I didn't want to go right in the space that I've been writing because it was full of like gossiping ladies and it was very distracting. I'm like, oh well, I'll just go somewhere else, yeah. And so the writer's block, of what that woo-woo like magic phrase of writer's block, suddenly starts to dissolve when you can notice the thoughts that are around it and be like okay, is that really true or is it just? It's kind of just getting pushed into a like general. I don't feel like writing idea.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and it could even be something like you said, cause you're waking up, maybe you didn't sleep well, you know, and that doesn't really have anything to do with your desire to write or your willingness, but when you lump it together, that starts to become that pattern that you you see yourself saying I don't feel like writing.

Speaker 1:

And then that becomes true, and that becomes the narrative of like I guess I'm just not a writer, when really I don't know you had bad dreams or whatever it was.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and the other thing I see that kind of I feel like is in the same bucket is when there's like, let's say, a plot question we have or something that's very craft and we don't want to write because we're afraid that you know, I can't figure that out, or what if this means my story is broken? So could this tip work for that as well?

Speaker 1:

Absolutely, and in fact on my website, if writers are interested, I have a little mini masterclass on writer's block and where I break down the 10 things that often masquerade as writer's block and there are probably half of them are specifically craft Like I don't know how to start my story, I don't know what comes next. I'm afraid people will judge me, especially if people are writing memoir or if you're basing characters on your family, like people are going to judge me. They're going to know I'm writing about them and there are specific ways to deal with each of those things Once you recognize what it is. If you don't recognize what it is, you're just lost out out at sea and there's nothing you can do about it.

Speaker 2:

And usually we take that to mean something that it doesn't mean, and then it stalls all progress. So we'll link to that in the show notes as well for anyone that's interested. But okay, so that's number two. What is the third?

Speaker 1:

way Okay. Number three is understanding your characters better by understanding emotions better. One of the ways that mindfulness can be really helpful with this is that when we are able to touch into emotion and stay with it long enough to like, find the words to describe it and get it on the page, your characters will suddenly be so much more rich and engaging be so much more rich and engaging. I read a lot of my clients when I first start working with them. Their stories almost kind of skim along the surface and they never really drop into the emotional content of the characters and what motivates them.

Speaker 1:

And because we have been trained as humans to avoid bad emotions, we don't want to feel sad, we don't want to feel angry, so we avoid those things and we're not great at writing about them. But when we can use mindfulness to recognize or even bring to mind like if I'm writing a character who is really angry, I will do just a short meditation where I sit quietly and try to remember a time I was really angry and then stay with it long enough to write down the words that describe that Like what does it feel like in your body when you're really angry or really sad or really in love or whatever that emotion is. We need to be able to slow down and recognize those emotions, describe them with words and I think it's one of the hardest parts, because we all feel those things but to actually put them in words that are true and specific and not cliche placeholders, but like real writing, real descriptions.

Speaker 2:

And that's super interesting too, because I agree that a lot of the drafts I see they do skim along the surface and sometimes it's what you said, that it's just like we're trained not to feel these quote, unquote, negative or bad things, whatever you want to call them, which, for the record, no bad emotions in my head. But yeah, it's like we're trained to not do do that.

Speaker 2:

And then also, sometimes it's hard if we've been betrayed or if we've experienced that, we don't really want to revisit it because that's not fun the other thing, too, is that a lot of the times, when we do create something that affects people emotionally, it has to do with complex emotions and those are hard to write because it could be you're feeling angry and you want to like go jog a mile and you're like, where did this even come from? Right, yeah, it's like capturing all the complexities of the emotion and feeling the thing.

Speaker 1:

So, yeah, it's a lot, but I do love this point, that noticing it and just like what does it feel like emotionally, physically, what do I do when I'm in that state, definitely help you write more authentic emotions do when I'm in that state definitely will help you write more authentic emotions, yeah, and being able to choose which emotions that you give to a character and that that I find, makes writing conflict much easier because you can choose.

Speaker 1:

So I people tend to fall in different camps, right, like my camp is definitely fear of abandonment, like that's me. But so if I'm writing a character who is more like me and has a fear of abandonment and Like that's me, but so if I'm writing a character who is more like me and has a fear of abandonment and I feel like it needs a little more conflict, then I give the other character a fear of commitment and, like you, put those two characters in a room together and there's going to be some conflict and it's so. It's not even just better for the writer, it makes it easier, but it's also better for your reader. It becomes much more dynamic and interesting.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I also find too that sometimes that messiness that comes with emotions or that, like you know, a character might be aware they're feeling something but they don't know why. Yet you know because there's an arc and all that. That also makes it more relatable, because people, you know, like you and I, we sometimes don't understand our own emotions and we're stuck in that place of like I feel so bad. Why do I feel this way? Maybe it's this and then we might have it wrong, or you know. So I think just that whole awareness of it will definitely help you write more three-dimensional, authentic characters.

Speaker 1:

Yes.

Speaker 2:

Okay, so that was number three. Right Now we're on number four, which is what?

Speaker 1:

And number four is also very closely related, but it's getting comfortable with discomfort and it very much like you were saying of, like it's these, quote unquote bad emotions can be really uncomfortable and a story without conflict is not much of a story.

Speaker 1:

So we have to learn to write into that discomfort.

Speaker 1:

And there's a very specific meditation for this one where you it's basically the same meditation I described before, where you you focus on an anchor and just notice when your mind wanders, but with one little caveat you, once you have settled in and said, okay, I've started my meditation, you try for however long you've decided to meditate and I use a little timer I think timers are great for this but okay, for 10 minutes I'm going to try not to move at all.

Speaker 1:

And what happens is you like just saying that I get a little itch on the back of my head, I notice there's a little strand of hair in my face and I really want to move it, my foot. Suddenly I need to just shift my foot just a little. And it's really so much harder than it sounds to just sit perfectly still for 10 minutes in your own head, because you will have these thoughts. But when you can practice not just reacting, when you can practice being uncomfortable and I say uncomfortable, not in pain. I always like to put the little asterisk, that like if you're in pain move.

Speaker 1:

Please take care of yourself. But for little, minor discomforts if you can practice just sitting with them. What does it feel like to like, notice that itch and to see if it eventually fades or does it shift or does it get worse, and try not to scratch it. You can actually build the muscle of being comfortable with discomfort, which will help you write more difficult scenes more effectively.

Speaker 2:

That's great. I think it's like sitting in the discomfort, noticing it but also not judging that discomfort, because it's really easy to say, you know, if we're in a negative headspace. I couldn't even sit still for five minutes. What's wrong with me? No wonder I couldn't write a book, right. Right so it's kind of like. That's not the point. The point is practice and getting in the habit of these mindfulness exercises and habits to become a better writer, not to prove that we are not capable of becoming better writers Exactly.

Speaker 1:

Well, and I think that kindness part is so important. Let's pause there for a second, because when, even just in the meditation as I've described it, where you're sitting and you're focused on something and your mind wanders and apparently it's a very American thing, but we like to beat ourselves up we do this like I'm so stupid. Why can't I even stay focused on anything for five minutes or even 30 seconds, like I just refocus and now my mind's running off again. And I always like to tell my writers minds think. That's what they do. We don't want them to stop, and the goal is never to clear our minds or to sit without a thought.

Speaker 1:

It is simply to notice the thoughts and, with kindness, come back to the anchor and begin again. When we bring kindness into it, we're actually allowing ourselves to see the truth of it, which is just that minds wander. That's what they do. If we beat ourselves up, you head into what the Buddhist philosophy would call delusion. It's not true that you're stupid if your mind wanders. In fact, it's probably the opposite. Your mind is working just like it's supposed to.

Speaker 2:

So bringing that kindness in is such an important thing. I'm so glad you mentioned that. Yeah and just. It's. Something that helps me personally is, let's say, I'm writing and I'm having these judgmental thoughts about myself. I have to sometimes say, okay, if someone else was telling me they're having these thoughts, I would never, ever treat them the way that I'm treating myself, right, like April was having these thoughts and she came to me and said Savannah, can we talk about this? I would never say you know what, april? It's kind of stupid. I don't think you're cut out to be a writer, right? So why do we do that to ourselves? I think sometimes that's enough to get us out of our head and be like, yeah, this is crazy.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, and just be kind, don, with yourself. First and foremost, I miss self-compassion, yeah, okay. So then what is number five? Number five editing more effectively.

Speaker 1:

And this I extrapolated from the Buddhist concept of right view, which is this idea of seeing things as they really are, and I've applied it to writing in the idea that when okay, so in the Buddhist philosophy, it's about the mental overlay that we bring to a conversation where, if I walk into the kitchen and my husband says I thought you were going to unload the dishwasher and I start being like well, I had to take the kids, I'm clearly bringing my own overlay of like I think he's judging me, so I'm defensive and blah, blah, whereas I didn't have time, like that's really all that I needed to say. And so what? The way that that applies to our writing is trying to see what we have written, without all the mental overlay of what we think we have written or what's in our minds that isn't quite on the page yet. And I have a fun story about this.

Speaker 1:

When I was working on my second novel the opening scene I had envisioned my main character being born in this storm and it was like thunder and lightning and the trees lashing and like big, fat raindrops landing in the mud. And I wrote that and I tend to write through the whole draft. So I wrote the draft, I come back to edit and I open up the page, expecting to read this great scene that I'd written. And what I had written was it was raining, yeah.

Speaker 2:

So not quite the story we envisioned.

Speaker 1:

That is not what's in my head, but if I hadn't been able to recognize that what was on the page wasn't in my head, then I wouldn't have been able to slow down and edit in that spot and that was clearly needed editing because it wasn't what I wanted it to be. I ended up cutting the whole thing. It didn't matter, but, yeah, trying to see things as they are on the page. When I started implementing that in my editing, I went from doing like 12, 13 drafts to doing three drafts and a final polish, like it shortened the number of rounds I did dramatically. And such a game changer in terms of getting to done on something, cause we all tend to get impatient, we're human yeah.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, we want things to go faster. I think this is a good, a good tip, especially for those who, like you're getting feedback from other people and maybe sometimes we tend to take feedback, you know, feedback as a judgment or as something's wrong, but part of why I like feedback is it helps. You see, okay, this part doesn't make sense to me and you might use the writer might know the answer. You're like, well, she's doing that because of X and it's like, okay, great, put that on the page because we don't get that.

Speaker 2:

So on this podcast we talk about it as the writer's burden of knowledge. We know everything right and the reader doesn't. So sometimes if you do have trouble getting feedback or if it makes you feel a little defensive, I like how April just said look, it's going to help you get from 13 drafts to three, maybe, or whatever. But it also helps you see those spots where you think you're putting it on the page and you're not, so maybe. I just love the way you said it could help reframe some of our feelings on getting feedback like that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah yeah, feedback is hard and that pretty much. That's a really great segue actually into number six, which is just the emotional part of being a writer and rolling with the punches, of of taking feedback, of getting rejection because rejection will always be part of it of dealing with the insecurity and that inner critic voice. So the imposter syndrome I call a cousin of the inner critic and it never gets tired of telling you how bad you are. If you, you know, if you haven't had anything published yet, it'll tell you, stop bothering, why stop bothering? Why nobody's going to like your writing. Then you get something published and it's like well, it was just a little short story. And then you get a novel published and it's like well, but it wasn't like a New York Times bestseller. And then you'll publish a New York Times bestseller and that little voice says, well, wait till you write your next book and they'll know you're a fraud. Like that voice will never run out of things to say. And so, learning to just recognize it, give a little internal bow and be like OK, you're excused, I don't need your input right now. You know where that little voice is great is when you're editing, and that's why I always tell my writers, like you can't murder your inner critic. You need it to be there when it's time to be critical, but any other time you just let it go.

Speaker 1:

And you know, yes, writing is hard. There are going to be all these things that go with it and sometimes, when it really hurts, you just have to give yourself a space for it. There definitely have been rejections where like, oh, I really thought I was going to get that one, like some grant or writer thing, like retreat, or on those ones that really hurt. Sometimes I have to step away from my computer and get a bowl of ice cream and I just watch Netflix for the rest of the day. But for me the important part is setting an end date to that. So, like, when I step away from my computer, I'm like, okay, I'm going to take today, or sometimes I just need an hour, or sometimes I need a week, it just depends on how much it hurts. But putting it in my head of like I'm just going to wallow as much as I need to until X, and then I'm going to pick myself up and I'm going to get back to it because you know writer's right.

Speaker 2:

It's what you got to do. And I think sometimes, like we keep saying, we take rejections and things like that to mean something, and it could mean so many things, like we could if thing and it could mean so many things If we're querying and we get two rejections or whatever it is it's like maybe they were full for the year, or maybe it could have been a silly mistake, maybe they don't represent your genre or something like that.

Speaker 2:

But without some of the details and the feedback we receive from things like querying, or if we're entering a short story competition and we don't get those reasons, we tend to go to the worst case scenario and blame ourselves, and so it's a good reminder that it's not always our thoughts are not always reality.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, in fact, they're almost always warped in some way, some little way of the cause. It goes through the interpretation of your brain, which is a summation of all of your experiences in your whole life, all the conditioning you've been through. So, yeah, it's very hard to see things just as they are and not lay over the like well, I'm not good enough, or they didn't like me, or whatever that narrative might be.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I love that you said you give yourself time and space to deal with, like the sadness or the whatever that comes with it, because it's okay to feel that way, like it's very okay to be sad, that you got rejected or you didn't win a competition or whatever.

Speaker 1:

Totally fine, it's totally normal yeah.

Speaker 2:

Totally normal, totally fine. I think I love that your end date, because if you're sitting in it for three months, you know, maybe not that healthy, but again it depends on everything else, right?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it really does, and for me, the joy is in the writing, so I think that the shame would be if I let that take me away from my writing for too long. That would be where I have a little heartbreak around that and ultimately, yeah, we, just we write. You get back to writing, yeah, and start the next project.

Speaker 2:

I like to kind of zoom out and say, okay, like if we are an athlete or something right there, there might be physical pain that comes with the training. There might be sacrificing, like other things in your life to make time and space for the training or whatever. They do it because they love it and so we write because we love it and I, I love that. You said the shame would be in stopping. So sometimes it's like we have to. I think some writers show up and they think it's all going to be fun, it's all going to be sunshine, you know, and things like that. And then when one little hiccup happens it's like oh great, you know, I'm the problem. It's not pretty normal, it's just part of the process. It doesn't have to mean anything other than, like, look at the fact of it.

Speaker 1:

You know it's not a neutral fact. Well, and one of the things I think that makes it really tricky for writers is that it's really hard to know if you're good enough. You know, if you submitted a contest, it could be that the readers were having a bad day, it could be that your story wasn't good enough. And when that little voice kicks in of like well, pause, like okay, am I really not good enough?

Speaker 1:

if I'm not sure and writing is so, you know- yes, very subjective that most popular book in the world has people who hate it, so it's very subjective. But if you're not sure, if you're feeling insecure about being a quote unquote good enough writer, there's so many opportunities like listening to this podcast or getting a book on craft, or taking a course or joining a writing. There's so many ways that you can actually work on your craft as you're going, so that if that is what it comes down to of like I feel like I'm not good enough. Well then, work on that. You know, I got literally laughed out of a workshop once for a sex scene that I wrote. It was so bad, but it was my best effort and it was not good. And everyone in the class when they read it, they laugh and they're like, oh, you were kidding right and I was like oh no, totally kidding.

Speaker 1:

I did. I played it off like super cool. I was like yeah, it's a joke. And then I went home and I like read up on like how to write sex scenes. I took a class, I read some romance novels. I was like I am not gonna let this be the thing that ruins my book.

Speaker 2:

For people like I'm gonna get better at it, and so you do. Yeah, and I think that's it's so. Those are hard scenes to write. So are fight scenes right? I always kind of group the two things together and people are like, yeah, they're kind of not the same. They kind of are, though, because it's like choreography, emotion going into it, but it's a very specific thing. Like like a thriller writer, if you're used to writing the more action scenes and then let's say that you're going to include a sex scene in your novel, of course you've never done it before. Of course you need to figure out how to do it. The same is true for writing anything. So, yeah, I think it's kindness and self-compassion is the answer. For sure. These six tips and these six ways to incorporate mindfulness into your writing practice even if you just implement one of them now and you save the rest on your list for later, I think it's going to make a huge difference.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and the actual practical meditation for number six. I didn't tell it, I got to share it real quick. It's called compassion practice or loving kindness compassion practice, and you can look them up. They're all over YouTube. They're all over like.

Speaker 1:

The meditation apps have tons of them, and often it's just about repeating a phrase of like may I be happy, may I be healthy, just wishing yourself well, and it's a little different than affirmations, but the phrases kind of become the anchor. So instead of focusing on the breath or a candle, you focus on these phrases of like may I be happy, may I be successful, may I enjoy my life. And then you have that loop of internal dialogue to push into the space. Whenever you start beating yourself up over something, you can be like nope, may I be happy, may I be successful, may I live a life of ease. And you have this tool that then you can press into your brain when you're feeling like you're going on a downward spiral. So definitely look one of those up Compassion practice, loving kindness practice they're all over the place and they're definitely worth exploring.

Speaker 2:

I love that. And for anyone who's listening that thinks like, oh, that sounds really hard to just push into the part of your brain that's negative, I think a good starting point is at least give like equal weight to the negative and the positive. So if you can't quite like because I know some people out there are like, yeah, that sounds good, but I can't make myself believe or buy into the like, may I be happy if I don't feel that way, right. So if you're thinking like you know I'm a terrible writer or I'm going to be rejected for this, equal airtime for that kind of thought would be like. But what if I'm not right? What if this is the query letter that gets me a deal? Or what if I'm actually not terrible and I just need to get better at dialogue? So you know, sometimes if you can't get all the way to 100, aim for 50-50.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, or even just even the tiniest start. I heard a woman talking about bringing this kind of meditation into her body image and she was really working on trying to be nicer to herself and not having a lot of luck, and so she would just try to catch herself. Whenever she looked in the mirror and said something mean to herself, she would add onto the end but I love you.

Speaker 2:

Oh, that'd be great.

Speaker 1:

Oh, your arms are so flabby, but I love you. And that was kind of her gateway into starting to just recognizing those thoughts and bringing in a little bit of self-love, even if she couldn't get rid of the negative thoughts just yet. And then over time you start to wear them away. But anything you can do to just bring in just a little bit of love for yourself.

Speaker 2:

I love that. So it's like yeah, the sentence is kind of cliche, but I love you yes.

Speaker 1:

You're doing great.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yes, you're doing great. Yeah, I love that. Okay, so could you recap those six just really quick for people?

Speaker 1:

Sure, absolutely so. Number one is finding focus, and that was with the insight meditation that we talked about. Number two is getting past writer's block, which we take that insight meditation and try to notice the thoughts that we have just grouped as writer's block so we can actually do something about them. Number three is understanding our characters better, so slowing down, taking a moment to notice the emotions that are coming up, which ties very closely to number four, which is getting comfortable with discomfort. Same meditation, but trying not to move and just accepting that challenge as best we can and starting to train ourselves to be comfortable with discomfort so we can dip into those emotions and write them more effectively. Number five was editing more effectively, which is trying to see what's on the page without the mental overlay of what we intended to be on the page, so that we can edit in fewer drafts. And number six is just rolling with the punches of being a writer, trying to bring in kindness as much as we can so that we don't get burned out and discouraged and quit writing.

Speaker 2:

I love that those are six wonderful tips, wonderful things we can integrate. What would you say if we're going to kind of bring all this to like? One final parting takeaway. I'm thinking of the writers who, whether they've been trying to do this for years, or if they're just brand new to it and they're stuck, so like they can't, they're so frozen they can't even make any kind of progress. What are some parting words of wisdom about?

Speaker 1:

that I really think community is key on writing and meditation and, well, pretty much anything we're trying to do in our lives. So if you are feeling stuck, I think reaching out to other writers whether it's a writing coach or it's a writing group or community, whatever it is but there's something magical about just getting with other people and if the mindfulness thing is something that's appealing I have a group that integrates mindfulness and writing, but it doesn't have to be something like that. I just think whenever we're stuck in life in general, reaching out to touch base with other people is the fastest, most effective way to get unstuck, whatever you're dealing with.

Speaker 2:

That's great, I totally agree. And you'll see things like A. They're going to be inspirational, they're going to have wisdom to share with you, but also you're going to see that you're not alone in your struggles, which sometimes helps. Take that. You know discomfort, like you were saying earlier, get uncomfortable with the discomfort because everybody feels it Right. So I do think that's a great tip. Community is wonderful, especially for the lone writer, so I love that. Thank you for sharing.

Speaker 1:

Now, where can people find you and your, you know, articles on mindfulness and all these things that you've been talking about. Yeah, I'm everywhere is April Davila, so it's aprildavilacom, and on my homepage I actually have a download. That is, I think it's, four ways mindfulness can make you a happier, healthier. Writer. I need to update it. I have six now, but there is a PDF people can download if they want to look at that. My groups are on there. I'm on Instagram as April Davila. I'm pretty easy to find Perfect.

Speaker 2:

And we'll grab all those links to the specific things you talked about, as well as just your website and your Instagram and things like that, but we'll put them in the show notes. But thank you so much for coming on the show today, april. I know this is going to be a listener favorite episode. We love our mindset tips over here, so I really, really appreciate it.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much for having me. It's a great conversation.

Speaker 2:

So that's it for today's episode. Thank you so much for tuning in and for showing your support. If you're an Apple user, I'd really appreciate it if you took a few seconds to leave a rating and a review. Your ratings and reviews tell Apple that this is a podcast that's worth listening to and, in turn, your reviews will help get this podcast in front of more fiction writers. Just like you. As always, I'll be back next week with a brand new episode full of actionable tips, tools and strategies to help you become a better writer and craft a story you're proud of. Until then, happy.

Mindfulness for Productive Fiction Writing
Using Mindfulness to Improve Writing
Overcoming Writer's Block and Focusing
Exploring Character Emotions Through Mindfulness
Overcoming Writing Challenges With Mindfulness
Navigating Rejection and Self-Compassion in Writing