The following is a continuation of my interview with my friend and colleague, Gabriël Oosthuizen. In this part of our interview, containing fewer questions but more detailed responses, we focused on mindfulness as it relates to writing and how he chooses to integrate mindfulness into his work.
Since this is something that, when we do get the chance to talk, we talk about a lot. I was eager to incorporate what this multifaceted subject means to him into this discussion and, as always, learn more about his thoughts. He makes references in this part of the interview to being an academic, something that we talked about when we first discussed his writing style.
What is your current relationship with mindfulness as a concept?
It's something I strongly identify with. You do reflect on what you've done and what you have experienced. You do think about tomorrow and what needs to happen, but when I'm writing, I've realized it's so important to be present because you're in that story world, in that moment, in that scene, right now. You're not going to jump three chapters ahead and then be able to write that scene how it's supposed to play out. You cannot be a first person narrator and experience it from your characters views if you are thinking of a mindset of three chapters on which may be the finale, which may be the midway turning point, which may be the hook of a book or whatever.
It's important to be in that scene and live through that scene, especially as a fiction writer, because essentially, you're relying on a worldview created, not as much on reality. It all depends on what your setting is, of course. I think that's why I've adopted the rituals, doing a little bit of reading, just to orientate my brain as to what a narrative flow looks like. When you're ready to engage with that, then rereading some of the things you've done. This is where my character was lost when we left him or her or them. Now we're here. Then you start writing, because you're back in bed, seeing you're back in that moment, that conflict or that reflection process. It just becomes easier when you're present. Then, you realize how valuable that presence is.
I've realized that, in experiencing them, one of my greatest pet peeves is interruptions. When you're in the middle of writing, everything is just flowing well, and then something comes and disrupts your entire process. You're just ripped out of that story world again. You're ripped out of your character's mind, and it's not as easy to climb back into. I think I'm lucky because I'm in my head a lot anyway. Even then, it's difficult for me. I do realize that I don't drive with the same organic touch as before I was interrupted. So, it's hectic. Then, you realize how precious that mindfulness is and that being in the moment, not worrying about what you need to write about this character or the story tomorrow, but writing as to where they are right now. Also, I think, will the rest ever come as easily where you can take that moment and reflect on that as well?
Just find acceptance in that. This is just what it is. These were my circumstances at this point in time. This was my mindset, maybe I wasn't ready to identify with my character, to even write this scene to even help my character display these emotions in that scene that they're supposed to be in right now. So, I can't really write anything about this character at that point in time. Also, there's stepping into that mindful acceptance that maybe this just isn't a day of writing, which is hard because we're so deadline-driven. We're so driven in terms of what needs to happen today. So, I think there's mindfulness in both the success of writing on a particular day and the failure of writing on a particular day, which in itself isn't a failure. I've tried to tell myself it's more of a much needed pause, maybe just a time to recollect, regroup, reorganize, and then hopefully I'll step into something new tomorrow.
What I'm getting is that you're seeing those pauses, those interruptions, as more of a natural part of your process.
You can control some of it. We do try as writers, as editors, as creative students, to create a physical space that allows us to do our work properly and to do it to the best of our capabilities, a safe environment in which we can tap into our potential. You know, the demands of life are sometimes unpredictable. Sometimes there will be interruptions that you need to accept such as when your partner comes in and they need you for something. You have to accept that and you're willing, it's just kind of stepping out from one world and stepping into another.
It's kind of strange that the first book I wrote for TUW wasn't actually a fiction book. It was a nonfiction and was about stoic philosophy. I'm glad I did that. because the whole premise of stoicism is action, mindful acceptance, and the things you have control of as opposed to the things you don't have control over. Also, just taking that time to reflect on that. You realize what you can influence and what you can't, what you just have to accept, and then suddenly it just becomes easier to discard those emotions that prohibit you from doing what you need to do. I think that was very fortuitous, but that was the first book that I wrote for TUW. I think that set the scene for my writer psychology and for other projects that I have done.
What project, that you are allowed to talk about, had the greatest impact on you and your mindset towards writing?
I think it was a personal project that I endeavored on and that was before the job I have now. It was in 2019 Have you heard of Inktober?
Yeah, so it's it's actually for visual artists, you know, doing a drawing a day. My friends challenged me to write something every day and I just decided to rise to the occasion. This is back in 2019. I had a blog myself, but I think I was still kind of finding my footing as a writer that didn't have an academic voice, but that could write more casually, more organically, more reflectively, more in tune with my subjective worldview as opposed to just having the objective framework from which we are trained to write in. You know, when you are an academic, you do a dissertation or thesis.
I always had a passion for fiction, but I'd never written something on a grand scale. It was that experience of doing Inktober. I wrote a short story every day and a proper short story, I mean, it was 2000 words a day. It was something different each time based on the prompt I was given, which was also a very mindful thing. You use that word and you make something up that even if it doesn't seem like it can make a great story. That just really got me into a habit. I think I've got out some good ideas I've always wanted to write about.
I think I discarded some bad habits, like maybe using overly descriptive words where it really doesn't fit or seem to flow with the story. It was just fun, to be honest, finally writing in a freeform way, accepting that this is the idea of this prompt, making a story out there that can be anything. What it turned out to be was actually 31 short stories based in the same universe that I've always wanted to create for a book. So, they weren't totally independent. They were actually interlinked. I think those were the first steps of writing the book I've always wanted to write. That was a very formative experience for me, and I'm still really proud of what I've done. I would like to revisit that and edit those stories, start linking them and start threading the golden thread in-between, making it into a cohesive whole. That, for me was a great experience. I would love to do Inktober again. I would do this year, but the demands of work have just been too hectic, so I'm hoping NaNoWriMo. Maybe I'll do that this year. It seems like a really cool community, but I just haven't tapped into it yet.
As a writer, editor, or rhetor of any kind, it's important to have a community of people you're comfortable sharing ideas with. Writing is an act of communication by definition.
I'm grateful for Gabriël Oosthuizen for agreeing to speak with me and for sharing his insightful thoughts and experience. This is not the end of the interview, however! I will be posting the next part after next week's article on The Sense of Style.
A big thank you to all Purposeful Prose readers. Thank you for all the feedback and amazing conversations! If you would like to be notified as soon as articles are published, you can become a member! Members can engage directly with my post through likes and comments. They can also participate in my forum.
If you have any suggestions as to what you would like to see covered on this blog, you can use the chat or any means of contact available on this site.
As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts!