WM Bunche believes in serving and maximizing his 24 hours each day. He serves as a church leader, a mentor and a veteran’s advocate. He is a cold war veteran and Commendation Medal recipient.
He is a fourth-generation veteran and his military roots trace back to the Civil War. A wannabe athlete, he has completed the 41st Marine Corps Marathon. He is an honors graduate of Columbia University. He lives in New York City.
Writing, like running, can be a lonely avocation. Writers perform their craft in solitude and often at odd hours of the day. Our finished product will be completed in its own individual time, not the same time or pace as our peers. Considering the lengthy pen to published process, writing is comparable to a marathon.
One of my first college writing instructors had a Buddhist author’s book on her syllabus which pertained to mindfulness. I am not a Buddhist, nor do I recall the title of the book. However, the word mindful has since resonated with me. Being mindful to me is simply being in the moment rather becoming a raw receptor of life via touch, smell or sight with minimal impediment. I had such a mindful experience preparing for the Marathon Corps Marathon a few months ago.
I ran the Marine Corps Marathon for a veteran charity and to raise awareness for PTSD. When pondering the 26. 2 mile distance, it initially seemed logical to put on my blinders and approach the marathon one mile at a time. I could have blocked out the Capitol, the Potomac River, Arlington Cemetery and the Washington Monument like some of the runners who ran the entire race listening to music through headphones as they focused on the finish line. As a writer, I could never run with music because I must be aware of every aspect of my surroundings. My surroundings are essential interwoven experiences of my journey not afterthoughts.
What I recall most about the marathon experience was not the distance but the participants in the race. There were gold star moms walking the 26.2 for lost sons. There were pregnant women walk/running. There were men who marched the 26.2 carrying 35 pound ruck sacks on their back on behalf of brothers killed in action. There was a 65 year old woman who was running her 100th marathon (she ran her first at age 50). Each body type, each running gait exhibited a unique life experience and approach to completing the marathon.
My point in mentioning each different attribute of marathoners is that each had a compelling back story that would have gone unnoticed had I not been mindful. Although important, at times, I felt my back story was insignificant in comparison to other marathoners’ purposes. Ironically, we were all running the same race with different injuries, different motivations, different training regimens. We shared a common sense of commitment and oneness. We were all testing our bodies’ limitations under pressures – mental (doubt, anxiety, self-confidence) and physical (endurance, pain, humidity and altitude). As writers, we live our lives under similar conditions, yet we still find time to interpret our world (fiction or non-fiction) via the page.
Today’s world is so high tech, fast paced and highly distractible that we often find ourselves living a superficial reactive lifestyle as opposed to a thorough interactive lifestyle. If we were to pause more, we could better interpret life and every aspect of its uniqueness. We would be able to experience things on a deeper sensory level. As mindful writers, our interactions should allow us to write on a profound level while minimizing casual efforts. I’m not referring to just the sounds of words. Writers are conduits for stimuli to transfer an experience to another waiting and anticipating recipient.
If we can connect with our readers on an emotional level, we have achieved our goal. Our challenge as writers is to discard the distractions of life to access the root of emotions in our observations. Imaginations can be vivid but not quite as inter-connective medium as being in the moment. Descriptions can take a reader to a place but descriptions cannot always take the reader into the author’s personal space.
If I can’t feel it (the emotions of the character(s) experience) when I’m writing, I’m not doing my job. If I can’t help the reader become an active participant in my writing experience, than I feel I have more work to do as a writer. The reader has to: (i) hear the breaths of the villain inching closer to the protagonist in the dark; (ii) feel the protagonist’s blood pressure rise as they interpret bad news and (iii) smell the iodine on the cotton swab administered to a deep cut by a nurse.
Watching Michael Jackson moonwalk is probably my most personal unforgettable recorded experience. Experiencing Prince play guitar live as a teenager was just as unforgettable. My goal as a mindful writer is to combine words on a page in the same vein as a live Prince guitar solo or Michael Jackson dance performance. The writing should be in the context of the moment of the given situation of the story.
When my words are impactful, from a sensitivity perspective, then I know I’m being mindful. Each layer of sensitivity as a writer heightens the senses of the reader. I daily aim for a level of mindfulness that will keep me living in the moments of life. When I feel I’ve hit that level of writing, the rewriting is less grueling. The end product will be more memorable to my readers and they will be more compelled to read the next story.