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The Mindful Writer: Discover a Kindred Spirit of Wisdom

An insightful pocket-sized book of writing and life wisdom, and a thoughtful gift for any writer.

I don't remember how I ran across this little gem of a book, but I'm glad I did and so will you. Dinty W. Moore fills 142 pages in The Mindful Writer: Nobel Truths of the Writing Life (Wisdom Publications, 2012) with quotations from 49 fine writers followed by his insightful and inspirational reflections on the creative process and how mindfulness plays a central role in writing and life.

At first glance, the book reminds me of Daily Devotions, a book my grandmother used to read a page from every morning. The Mindful Writer deserves a similar careful, deliberate reading, however, it proves to go far beyond any kitschy, cliché-ridden directives.

Moore likens the journey of his writing life to that of the Buddhist’s spiritual journey. In his introduction he delineates “The Four Nobel Truths For Writers” and follows with the structure of the book’s four sections: The Writer’s Mind, The Writer’s Desk, The Writer’s Vision, and The Writer’s Life. Moore elaborates throughout the text as he reflects on the difficulty of the writing life, our need to let go of control, the hope for becoming more fruitful as writers, and practicing a mindful life both in writing and living.

Moore shares his basic, but hard-truth insights: “The process of writing a book can easily entail a hundred pages of false starts, superfluous scenes, exploratory passages that were necessary for the writer to have written, but not necessary for the reader to read in the end.” (It's so true. I've got hundreds of pages of backstory no one will ever read!)

Some of his other reflections bolster my determination and commitment as a writer: “Don’t live your life the way the world wants you to live it. Live your life the way you want it to be lived. And if the life you want includes writing, then don’t wait for the permission. That permission, most likely, will never come. Except from yourself.” (And this is a permission I have to give myself every single day.)

My grandmother was a Christian in every positive sense of the word, and I suspect that fifty years ago she might have misunderstood anything inspired by an association with Buddhism, to her a mysterious foreign cult. However, she enjoyed journaling--and was darn good at it--as she traveled abroad as a self-appointed missionary. If she were alive today, I think she'd find a kindred spirit in Mr. Moore’s book.

Moore's philosphy rings as true for her as it does for me: “It is our job as writers, to imagine why human beings, often even those with the best intentions, seem consistently to create disarray, both personal and public. It is our job as well to understand that these failings could happen to anyone.”

Dinty W. Moore is author of numerous other books, including Crafting the Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Nonfiction, and the memoir Between Panic & Desire, winner of the Grub Street Nonfiction Book Prize. A self-professed failed zookeeper, Moore has also been a professional modern dancer, Greenwich Village waiter, filmmaker, and wire service journalist. His stories and essays have appeared in The Southern Review, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, among numerous other venues. He is a professor of English and Director of Ohio University’s BA, MA, and PhD in Creative Writing program.