The Practice of Creativity

The Power of Mindful Writing: Interview with Novelist and Coach Fiona Robyn

Posted on: May 25, 2012

I’m so excited to introduce readers to novelist, therapist, and coach Fiona Robyn. Fiona has just completed her 4th novel, The Most Beautiful Thing. Fiona writes, teaches and specializes in an attention to mindful writing practice. She helps people slow down, pay attention, and “reconnect with ourselves” in order “to understand and love the world around us.” Her and her husband Kaspa teach e-courses and inspire people through their online community Writing Our Way Home. I met Fiona on She Writes, where she is a regular contributor, and noticed our overlapping interests in coaching, Buddhism and writing. I wanted to find out how she combines these passions in service of her teaching and writing.

1) Do you conceive of a story in the voice of a narrator, or in key images or characters, or in events?

My stories always arrive through my protagonists – they appear in my head one day, usually with a name and a vague physical form, and as I spend some time getting to know them their story emerges. I might ask myself what kind of music they like, where they live, or whether they have a partner. They always come first, and I see it as my responsibility to share their story as accurately as I can through the novel.

2) Where did your current idea for your novel come from? What’s your process like when you’re working on a novel?

Joe appeared in my head! I also knew that he’d be spending time in another country – at first I thought it might be somewhere like Hawaii, which would have been nice for research purposes, but it turned out to be Amsterdam! A bit more practical to go and visit… My process is quite similar for each novel – the first draft is hell (and goes slowly and reluctantly), the second draft is a bit more fun, the third draft is enjoyable, and then the fourth and fifth (when I’m taking out commas and putting them in again) can become tedious. I try to work on the writing most weekdays, and I prioritise the writing above all other activities. I’m getting ready to work on my fifth, and am both looking forward to it and feeling anxious… can I really do it again?

3) You have a very active online presence. You write, teach, and run several blogs. How do these different activities feed into each other and you?

‘Very active’ might be a polite way of saying I spend far too much time online : ) I feel very lucky to be engaged with people in a variety of ways, and all these activities feed each other nicely. The concept of small stones (http://www.writingourwayhome.com/p/small-stones.html) has been personally helpful to me as a tool for staying mindful, and it also helps others to connect with their worlds. We do great work on our mindful writing e-courses (we being me and my husband Kaspa) and it’s a privilege to share our student’s journeys. It all makes a lovely nourishing mess.

4) David Long said that the mind of a story has an attitude, or a personality. Do you have a particular attitude that you find yourself writing?

Interesting question. I guess most of my stories are concerned with telling the truth – allowing one of my characters to be more honest about who they are. I find it difficult to differentiate between my¬†protagonist’s attitude and the attitude of the story, but I can see that there’s a difference… Maybe I’d have to ask my readers about that one!

5) When and why did you start bringing the practice of ‘mindfulness’ to the writing process?

I’ve always been interested in spirituality, and a few years ago I became a Pureland Buddhist. Independently, I started writing small stones in 2005 and have written them daily ever since. Mindfulness has been important to me as a writer, and as a spiritual practitioner. We also use the word ‘mindfulness’ as a bit of a buzz word – something that people can easily recognise and respond to, like ‘Zen’. A more accurate way of saying ‘mindful writing’ might be ‘writing that helps you connect with yourself, others, the world and something more sacred’. With this kind of writing, what’s learnt by the writer is more important than the quality of the writing that’s produced. A lovely side-effect of writing with more of our ‘self’, though, is that the resulting writing is often very powerful and precise and luminous.

6) What’s your best writing tip?

Just one? Hmm… Try to love yourself and love your writing, whatever comes up. Be kind to yourself. Writing is a scary business, and involves opening up layer after layer of ourselves to be looked at and commented on by the general public. Remember, also, that the process of writing will bring you great treasures – never mind publication (although of course you should seek it), keep focus on the process. Oh, that was two.

Reviews of The Most Beautiful Thing

“This book really is a beautiful thing. Enter the world of Joe, 14 years old and spending the summer in Amsterdam with his artist aunt Nel. Beautifully observed, tender, thoughtful and insightful, this book twists and turns in the way that life does…revealing beauty and dysfunction. Fast forward in time to 15 years later when Joe returns to Amsterdam uncovering a tragedy and a secret that will turn his world upside down. This is a memorable book; a truly beautiful thing; a story that stays with you long after you read it. Definitely the best book I’ve read this year.”
~Jackie Stewart, Flower Spirit: Soul medicine for conscious living

“I was surprised by this wonderful novel. I thought initially it was going to be a ‘relationship’ book, but as I became more involved with the characters I realised it was a significant contribution to the literature of ‘The Outsider’. From Dostoevsky to Camus writers have attempted to delve into the psyche of those who behave differently, who are perhaps more creative, more violent, more passionate, more remote, than the supposedly normal person. Fiona Robyn captures beautifully the outsider in gently affectionate prose. Joe is an outsider, an insecure, bookish, distant teenager. In two slices of Joe’s life the author manages to capture the complexity that so many teenage boys and young men grapple with. Sexual frustration, the retreat into books, facts, figures, anything to repel the difficulties presented by a world filled with the puzzle of other people. From the perspective of middle age I can identify with so much experienced by Joe, both as a teenager and a young adult, and am amazed at the perspicacity of Fiona Robyn in capturing it so well.” ~Anthony Foley via Amazon.com

“Lovely, vivid, capturing. I didn’t want to stop reading this once I started. What a wonderful job of capturing the beauty and agony of family!” ~Brandi Trevisan via Goodreads

About Fiona Robyn

I enjoy helping people to honour their muses and find a way of integrating creativity into their everyday lives. I also enjoy working with themes around career, meaning, spirituality and, of course, writing.

I am influenced by humanistic and existential thinking and Buddhist psychology. These theoretical approaches, and a lifetime of my experiences as an ordinary person and as a novelist with different projects and priorities to juggle, all inform my way of working.

I am a published novelist. I hold a coaching diploma with the Oxford School of Coaching and Mentoring, and I’m a BACP Accredited psychotherapist in private practice. I have a Diploma in Buddhist Psychotherapy with the Amida Trust. Before becoming self-employed I worked both in the private and charity sectors.

Intrigued? Visit her and check out her free e-book about writing your way home

Advertisements

2 Responses to "The Power of Mindful Writing: Interview with Novelist and Coach Fiona Robyn"

I’ve been saving this up to read for several days. I ran into Fiona Robyn on Red Room, and it’s wonderful, Fiona, to get a fuller picture of you and your writing as it integrates with practice. I am a meditator in the Vipassana tradition, and it’s lovely to encounter those whose writing life and spiritual life dovetail. Not always something I can quite get my heart around. Nice interview!

Hi Helen,
Thanks for stopping by. Fiona was a delight to interview and I feel, like you, lucky to know a writer who uses a contemplative tradition to inform writing practice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

View Full Profile →

Follow me on Twitter

Follow The Practice of Creativity on WordPress.com
%d bloggers like this: