Be the Cursor: A writing meditation

The goal, if there is one, is to achieve a level of unity between your thoughts and your fingertips wherein you forget that you are typing at all and simply watch your thoughts appear on the screen before you.

As you approach this goal, you will find that your thoughts begin to slow down slightly, as if the bottleneck created by your maximum words-per-minute has forced them to move single file rather than rampage madly through your mind. Thought slows to the speed of transcription and, hopefully, the hummingbird chatter that normally fills the mind is replaced by a unified, aware voice.

While it is arguable that no such unity actually exists in the mind, it undeniably exists in the cursor that crawls across the screen, excreting words as it goes. Be the cursor if you can. Use it to unify the chaos of your mind. Shrink yourself down and occupy that space between conceptual and recorded thought. While philosophers and scientists might argue about where thoughts are truly born, for our purposes, we can easily locate it within the blinking cursor on our screens or, if you take the low-tech approach, the tip of a pencil. This is a magical place, this place where brain-stuff becomes a real thing outside of ourselves.

It is impossible to plan where one’s thoughts will go in this situation since — if you are doing it correctly — you are simply following them.

If, during this process, you find that you have stopped typing, do not struggle to recall the train of thought you imagine you have abandoned. Just sit and enjoy the silence until the words begin again. Don’t start racing around looking for a stray dog in your mind. Remember that, since you are recording your thoughts as they come up, silence just means you are in the space between them.

There is no one reading this, no one sitting across from you to whom you must explain yourself. You are just thinking. Do not treat silence as something to be conquered.

If your mind abandons one train of thought for another, don’t think of it as a breakdown of some process. If your attention moved on from one place to another, perhaps what you were thinking about wasn’t as interesting as this new thought. If the lost thought was of any value, trust that it will pop up again later. The things that interest us have a tendency of repeating themselves in our minds, so if you feel as if you’ve stumbled upon some gem of philosophy or humour, remember you can come back to this text later and retrieve it. For now, move on.

This is the only way to avoid getting caught up in mental spirals wherein you chase your own tail for several minutes and then berate yourself for losing grasp of a thought.

Do not get caught up in picturing an audience at the other end of the words. Words created for an audience are — more often than not — not worth saying. Trying to pander to the possible idiosyncrasies of some imagined reader will only cause your thought processes to stumble unnecessarily over themselves.

Think of this process as completely private. What other people might think is completely irrelevant, because this is merely a recording of what you happen to be thinking at a particular moment in time.

At times, your mind will still get away from you and you may wander from your task in one of many ways. You may become distracted and stop typing. You may find yourself going back over what you have written, looking for some train of thought you wish to retrieve. Thinking of these hiccups as a problem is a mistake. Noticing them, however, means that your brain is learning to identify the ways in which it strays. This is the first step in strengthening your focus. Soon you will be able to avoid these missteps before you make them.

Also remember not to worry if you feel as if you have made some sort of semantic or grammatical error. There is no reason to fret over this, since there is no reader to catch the mistake. Trying to wring the desired meaning from the words will only stall your thought process. If you wish to come back to this thought at another time, you will no doubt remember what you were trying to say regardless of the faults of the sentence.

Do not be afraid of redundancy. We often repeat certain things because they are on our mind at the time. This merely makes coming back to this text later all the more interesting, because one can readily identify a theme that clearly guided the session.

Don’t be afraid of nonsense either. Sometimes a mind just needs to babble. Just continue to record.

Feel free to stop using punctuation if the mood catches you. If you’re like me, however, you may find that your thoughts flow better punctuated.

Though I have cautioned you not to write to an audience, do not berate yourself if you begin addressing a third person. If your thoughts take the form of a dialogue, argument or lecture, record it. The point is to avoid censoring yourself on behalf of a non-existent audience. If your brain is having a conversation with itself, transcribe it. Do not, however, trouble yourself with thoughts like: “This would make a good script,” or “I should turn this into a story.” If you let loose some gem of wisdom, some dandy turn of phrase that you might enjoy reading later, retrieving it will be as easy as glancing over this document. While this is a benefit of the process, it is not the point. Do not think of this as the soil that will grow your inevitable literary masterpiece. That cheapens it. It is better to stumble upon beauty than to tire yourself out chasing it.

If you find yourself lamenting your woes or otherwise focusing on something negative, do not shy away from this either. It would probably be a good idea to let this negativity out into the light where it can be examined. No one ever has to read it, not even you. You will not be judged for what you write in this place. Bad thoughts and poor writing can be left behind without a second thought.

It is best, if I might be allowed to make a judgment now, that you think of the words ass falling off into a deep dark chasm. This gives you the right idea.

If something comes up to distract you, like a phone call or a bathroom break, do your best to return to the process when you are finished with the distraction. It’s a good habit not to let yourself quit a task just because you are distracted from it. Even if you only come back to the process for a minute or so, at least come back and immerse yourself in it one more time. Prove to yourself that you are not the type of person who gets beaten by a phone call. you are the type of person that swats distractions away like flies, never taking your eyes off the task at hand.

Now get to it.

p.s. – I use a $10 app called WriteRoom. It’s one of those distraction-free apps that takes away everything but the screen that the cursor. The featured image on this post is a screen capture of the app in action. Until someone designs an app that actually shows your text disappearing into the distance, this is my favourite place to do this meditation.

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