For many years, as I travel across the country, talking about lawyer well-being and mindfulness, lawyers would come up to me and ask about writing. I offer the advice that’s often repeated — just write. Of course, it’s never that simple but that’s truly the only way to write. As Anne Lamott says, write the “shitty first draft.”
Even though I’ve been practicing mindfulness for over seven years, it wasn’t until I took a writing class that I realized I can combine the two practices. It’s a powerful experience to calm the mind and write the words that are longing to be written.
Each Wednesday, I grab my journal and drive to Oakland, CA where I sit around the table with six or seven other women. We are invited to radical self-expression, free from judgment. It’s free-form writing meaning the only “goal” of the session is to keep the pen on the page and keep writing. Sometimes, I write long winded complaints about life’s injustices or irritations. Other times, a memory, long abandoned.
Then we’re invited to read our words aloud. A powerful experience. It surprises me when the women sitting around the table make audible “mmm…” or other sounds, instinctively because they can relate to the words. I love it when I write something that makes them laugh (because I don’t consider myself to be funny.)
What is not allowed is judgment, critique or comment. After one woman finishes reading, we move on to the next person.
As lawyers, we are perfectionists so doing anything “shitty” is terrifying. However, it’s through this experience of getting the words down on paper — good, bad, or simply passable, that we’ll be able to polish and slowly make our way to the final draft.
Many of you shared your own reasons for wanting to reconnect with your creative side through writing. Some were related to stress and anxiety management, such as, “more insight to my thoughts, an ability to limit stress through writing” and “another way to keep my anxiety in check while practicing law.” Others were held in the deeper desire for self-knowledge, “getting in touch with writing and expressing myself through the written word again” and “to overcome my own hesitation in writing.”
If this resonates with you and you would like to join a community of lawyers interested in writing, join us for Mindfully Writing.
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