Writing as meditation

Tomorrow’s Professor has a post about writing as an action of discipline (post number 1209):

Perhaps brilliant, transformative ideas are not the only ones that should be written down (and perhaps these types of ideas only can come about in the context of writing more routine, ordinary insights). Perhaps the goal should be providing meaningful, valuable contributions to our professions. Expecting anything more may create too much pressure and lead to debilitating blocks and limitations. Besides, more than one brilliant scholar has been denied tenure for not having developed the practice of writing and so not publishing. To be successful in publishing articles, you need to develop writing as a practice or discipline.

In this sense, writing is similar to meditation. It is very hard to meditate well if you only do so once in awhile. Meditating only when you want to reduce stress may provide some benefits, yet many of the most powerful effects demand daily practice. When you meditate daily, meditation becomes integrated into the core of your life. Over time it becomes both easier and more beneficial. Having a daily meditation practice forces you to be disciplined, consistent, and focused. Over time, you experience new depths, insights, and benefits. If you miss more than a day or two, you come to feel as if something were missing, as if something were not right.

The same is true with writing. When you are out of practice, the blank sheet is daunting. However, when writing has become a central part of your life, words and ideas tend to flow—if not effortlessly, at least more smoothly. Daily or near-daily writing can even become like a meditation practice, something that takes you out of yourself, connects you to different parts of your personality, and helps you let go. When writing becomes a friend, a daily routine, it loses much of its anxiety-producing qualities.When you do not have to worry whether you will be able to produce because you already are producing on a consistent basis you are free to consider what you want to write about and who you want to become as a scholar. What we are suggesting is that we treat writing as a creative, life-inspiring practice. This clearly demands an attitude shift for many of us. It is not enough to wish this relationship into existence: it requires practice and work, including work on the psychological and emotional barriers that you identify in yourself. It also can mean learning to view writing as a vehicle for becoming more fully who you are. For some, this may be an extreme and unhelpful goal. For those of you who do not wish to see writing in this almost spiritual light, at the very least you nevertheless will need to develop a practice of writing.

The post could not have come at a better time for me than when I am struggling with nearly five writing projects: two big ones (book length writing projects), one very important (funding proposal) and a couple of small ones (papers to be completed and sent)!

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