Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to speak
with some of you about your writing.
Here are a few comments I’ve heard on repeat:
- I keep coming back to this idea.
- I am haunted by this story.
- I hear this voice in my head, and it won’t let go of me
This is the sound of a calling.
Like the protagonist in any story, you probably actively ignore the call or insist that you’re not up to it or find a million convenient excuses why now is not the time.
There are so many obstacles in writing.
But when I ask folks what’s in their way, because there is always something in the way, nine times out of ten, I hear this:
The outer obstacles — work, family, the pandemic — are challenging, but they can be negotiated. The interior world is a more formidable force to contend with.
Blaming it on yourself, however, is not useful, nor is it nice.
Do you really need to pile on
a heap of guilt and shame?
What if instead, you separated the deep self, the one who
feels called by some force from beyond, from your brain?
We have so little control over this complicated, multi-faceted organ. It runs on hormones, neurotransmitters, random associations, and a million other elements we have yet to understand.
The subconscious rules our lives most of the time. It goes on and on and on, running its stories and familiar moves in the background over and over again.
The good news is that you can get a handle on the subconscious by using your conscious mind. And the training ground is meditation.
You’ve probably heard this instruction for meditation before:
Focus your mind on your breath, or alternately, on sound or on sensations in your body. When you catch your mind wandering (this is your subconscious at work), gently bring it back to your focus.
This is the way we train our brain.
By the way, I often remind my students that a wandering mind is not an occasion for self-flagellation. Rather, you might celebrate the fact that you just woke up and brought yourself back to the present moment.
Recently, inspired by some brain training around my health, I’ve added this suggestion:
When you find your mind wandering off, talk to your brain. Say, “Come on, little brain. Let’s come back over here and sit for a while.”
This helps you separate from your rambling thoughts AND keeps you out of self-judgment, which by the way will get you nowhere in meditation or writing or anything else you care about.
NOW TRY THIS IN YOUR DAILY LIFE
Let’s say that checking email and social media gets in the way of your writing. (Can you hear me chuckling?)
You had an intention to write first thing in the morning, but you find yourself stuck scrolling Facebook or clicking on an offer that ends at midnight.
Your subconscious has taken over.
But you can continue training your brain right here and now, by saying this:
Come on, little brain. This is not how we want to spend our time. Let’s go write.
The mind has often been compared to a puppy. You want it to sit still, but it keeps running off to play. This is a way to bring it back with lovingkindness.
Kindness and compassion are an inside job and they are key to getting a handle on that unruly organ inside your head. They are also key to writing.