Some time ago, I purchased a book on writing fiction. Not my first such purchase by any means, but the blurb for this book intrigued me because it promised to teach me how to write fiction. So I sent for the book and when it arrived I read it cover to cover.
There wasn’t much about the craft of fiction writing in the book. Less than half, maybe only a third. The rest of the book was about meditation.
How to meditate. When to meditate. How often to meditate. And what should happen inside my mind during and after meditation. I followed the instructions carefully, though with skepticism. I’ve always believed in the power of taking a few minutes sometime during the day and just dong nothing. Relaxing. Napping. Sipping tea. Anything. But meditation? Come on now! But I tried it.
I soon learned that I simply cannot close my eyes and think about nothing. No matter how hard I try, no matter how many mantras I repeat, no matter how many fluffy, pink clouds I visualize. I can’t do it. I just can’t.
But I got what the author of that book was trying to tell me. That writing begins in the mind. In the thoughts of the writer. If those thoughts are muddy and confused and skittering every which way without focus or center or purpose, then the end result will also be muddy, confused and lacking focus, center or purpose.
It’s a sad fact that sometimes the harder we writers try to write, if we try too hard, then instead of focusing better on what we’re doing, we actually lose focus and our writing suffers.
When this happens, take a break.
If you can meditate, do so. If you’re like me, get up out of the chair, leave the room, get as far away from writing as possible and do whatever relaxes you, be it gardening, painting, shopping or whatever. And don’t return to that chair until every single mental cobweb is gone and your mind is sharp and focused and you know… you don’t just think, you know … what you want to tell your readers.
Doing this isn’t being lazy. It’s not unprofessional. It’s a professional answer to a common problem, and you will end up spending fewer hours writing than you would have spent if you forced yourself to do something when your mind wasn’t there.