In an attempt to reduce my stress levels, I’m taking an insight meditation class. Though some of the exercises have been a bit over-the-top (contemplating raisins and such), I’ve gleaned a lot of good information regarding how to be more accepting when life throws unexpected challenges.
Probably the most relevent information I’ve learned involves the Five Buddhist Hindrances–all of which I’ve experienced with writing. The analogy is, everyone has a pristine pool within–and the Five Hindrances disrupt that pool. The Hindrances are mentioned in relation to meditation, but they can be applied to most situations.
Hindrance 1: Desire for what you don’t have (a colored dye within the pool)
Or, the “if only” syndrome. If only I was a published writer, or if only I was rich, or if only…blah blah blah my life would be better/different/tolerable. The real answer lies in finding satisfaction at what you do throughout your day (whether it be writing or helping someone at your day job), and taking pleasure in these things while striving for something greater. This will then allow you to better enjoy the greater things, when and if they come. I’ve been trying this within the past week, and already the overall journey seems less arduous.
Hindrance 2: Anger or ill-will (boiling water in the pool)
This involves pushing away unpleasant thoughts by becoming angry (or feeling ill-will toward things out of your control). All this will accomplish is making you frustrated and less approachable if the tides turn in your favor. Anger will inevitably happen, so the quickest way to get past it is to recognize the anger, be with it, and move on.
Hindrance 3: Sloth/torpor (algae in the pool)
I think this is stops a lot of writers from cranking out material, even when they want to keep writing. It’s okay to take breaks, but if one month turns to two without writing, try to find some motivational tools to help you get back in the game. Maybe start small–500 words written by sundown, or something along those lines.
Hindrance 4: Restlessness/worry (wind above the pool)
I’m probably the most guilty of this one. If Hindrance 1 involves “if only”, Hindrance 4 is the “what if” syndrome. What if my work isn’t good enough? What if I ruined a network connection with another writer (publisher, or agent)? What if I never get published?
There are answers to all of these (or any other what-if questions you have): If you think your work isn’t good enough, keep writing and hone your craft. If you botched a network connection, make another one. If you don’t get published, write because you love it (self-publishing doesn’t have the same stigmas it used to). Letting go of restlessness/worry involves recognizing the things in life beyond our control, and accepting them as they are.
Hindrance 5: Doubt (mud murking up the pool)
This is a big one when querying or submitting your work. Especially when the rejections come in. You might ask yourself if writing is what you should be doing, and whether you should spend your energy elsewhere. (For the record, thinking about where to best spend your energy is something good to consider anyway). With this, remember why you love writing, and why you’re compelled to do it.
My questions to you all: What hinders your writing process? How have you overcome your obstacles?