The Mindful Writer: Still the Mind, Free the Pen
by Jan Marquart

Free the Pen Publications, 2011. ISBN 978-1-456-54713-4.
Reviewed by Lisa Shirah-Hiers
Posted on 08/06/2013

Nonfiction: Creative Life

Jan Marquart's how-to is a wise, concise-yet-thorough guide for those who wish to write about their lives. Writing, she points out, is like jumping into the deep end of a swimming pool—frightening and exhilarating all at the same time. But in the deep end, Jan promises, you will find yourself "waiting to be uncovered, discovered and recovered." With Jan's help you will learn how to still the demons of self-doubt and disapproval, reframe your experience, push through obstacles, and find your own way to the truth about your life and experiences. Richly interwoven through the book are concrete examples of her own journey, how she learned to face difficult portions of her life through her writing, and the healing that came from the encounter with the page. "Experiences," she writes, "are non-verbal. They are merely a conglomeration of feelings and sensations. When we write we give them meaning and create a kind of order to our internal world."

The Mindful Writer takes us on a very personal journey to find our own voices just as Jan did, to overcome all the obstacles we encounter along the way including that bugaboo, writer's block. "We call it 'writer's block' but there is no block," she explains. "There is only our personal rhythm of experience." Writing through our blocks—mental, physical, and emotional—allows us to keep momentum no matter how difficult the subject matter. One way through is understanding the connection between our thoughts and our physical body as described in the chakras. Focusing on the different energies within (mental, emotional, spiritual, physical, energetic, intuitive) allows us to go deeper into the creative process, to experience full body consciousness in our writing. With that wider perspective we can understand how and why we get stuck and can learn techniques to keep the pen moving across the page mindfully and without judgment.

Sometimes we get stuck because we feel vulnerable. We are afraid to express our own truth for fear of fallout from family and friends. Jan encourages us to write anyway without worrying what others think. "Mining our subconscious mind takes courage," she warns. "But when the censor comes from outsiders who think our experiences don't have value and we believe them, we disconnect from our own lives." Telling our own stories our own way allows us to reframe our experience and find our own pathway to healing. It allows us to reconnect with, repair, and recover our lost selves.

The Mindful Writer includes dozens of categorized writing prompts that will help you explore your past, recognize your true self, and heal from past traumas. You will learn how to confront your fear, wait, trust, and surrender. "As a writer, going spelunking into your own experience may awaken ghosts and reveal black-hearted wishes," Jan tells us. "But life has ways of forcing us to come to grips with the darkness so we can find the light in order to survive." With Jan as your gentle teacher, you will find your own way to the light of truth.

Jan Marquart is a licensed psychotherapist whose special interest involves the connection between writing and healing—both physically and emotionally. She won the Writer's Digest Self-Published award in 2000 for The Breath of Dawn and the Achievement in Poetry Award by the International Library of Poetry in 2005 and has published poetry, stories, and essays in Victim Poetry,, Solecisms, and Random Access Poetics. Her many books are available on Amazon and through her website. She is founder and CEO of About the Author Network, an organization dedicated to helping authors write, publish, and sell their books.

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