Time to Write: Creating Mental Space

I recently began coursework to become a meditation teacher. Over the course of the last several years and especially during COVID, I finally managed to pin down a seated meditation practice that had become part of my every day. Sometimes I’d sit fifteen minutes; other times I managed to calm myself down into an hour or more. The peace and focus it brought to my days has been impossible to explain, and I wanted to find a way to share this with others so that they could feel the same release.

Imagine my surprise in the third week when my instructors shared that there are two types of meditation: one undertaken by monks and nuns in mountaintop monasteries and one practiced by real humans in the world today.

Aside from quashing my vision of sitting for extended periods of time on my zafu in the company of others, the lesson made perfect sense. When we are looking to do something new and unfamiliar, or even to refine ourselves in the pursuit of something we’ve come to enjoy, we often seek to replicate what we *think* it is that we should be doing. We think we should sit for an hour to meditate when in fact we can easily gain the benefits of a practice in a two to three minute meditation while walking or gazing upon something beautiful. We think we need to eliminate all foods we enjoy and subsist off kale smoothies forever in order to gain health. And, when we think we’d like to be writers, to dabble with words, we often imagine we must have hours of free time, impeccable grammar, grandiose stories to tell, and quiet, literary space in which to work.

Nothing–in the case of the writer–could be further from the truth. Sure, those gifts of time when we manage to sneak away for a few hours from a busy home life or choose to stay in on a Friday night and draft are blissful, but they are not reality. The reality of “the writer’s space” isn’t about a point in the future where you need to be in order to write, it’s a space you create in your mind (and in physical reality, which we will explore next week) where you own the desire to write, to put things into words, even if you don’t know how things will end up.

This second lesson (find the first lesson, Let’s Get Tactile, here) in coming to writing is more about opening yourself up mentally to write where you are right now. Too often we have abstract checklist of reasons why we can’t do something, or why what we’re doing isn’t successful because it doesn’t look like someone else’s process or output. For today’s lesson, I want you to make lists in your writer’s notebook or journal about the following topics. Your lists will be as long or short as you feel necessary, and you can always come back and add more as you feel reluctance come up. By writing down the mental obstacles to your writing, you are releasing the blocks and allowing the creative energy to flow through you, which is the bliss every writer seeks.

Lists to Create Space for the Writer:

I want to write because:

I want to write about:

I am the perfect person to write about…because…

I’m not a writer because:

My favorite places to write are:

My favorite times to write are:

My favorite things to write about are:

After I finish writing, I often feel:

When I haven’t made time to write for a few days, I feel:

Things I want to write about in the future are:

If any of these list topics feel especially strong to you, perhaps that’s where you need to journal your thoughts in a more lengthy session. Allowing yourself to explore whatever you come up with is truly one of the first steps in writing. We all have the solutions to our own limitations inside, and writing helps us pull those into focus.

How did the list writing go for you? What did you discover? I’d love to hear in the comments!