When I sit down to write and I’m having a hard time getting started I follow a common writing exercise. I time myself and write for twenty minutes about anything, paying no attention to grammar, sentence structure or spelling. It always gets me writing, without fail, but when I relax and really get into it is when it begins to feel like meditating.
I’ve found that I begin to write less and less using conscious thought and instead begin to write without judgment, without fear. I can finally dismiss the thought, “what will other people think when they read this”, because it doesn’t matter. I’m writing just to write.
I also find that I become more aware of things I have been trying not to think or have been thinking about too hard. Suddenly, I may realize why I have been feeling irritable or I may come up with a simple solution to a problem that previously seemed unsolvable.
Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones wrote, “We make this choice with our feet firmly on the ground. We are not running wildly after beauty with fear at our backs”(20). I’m taking it out of context because this is the part that stuck with me.
I remember it as a command, though. “Do not run wildly after beauty with fear at your back. Face fear and choose beauty with your feet firmly planted on the ground”. This is what I am able to do when I am in this meditative writing zone. It still does not happen too often, but as I practice every day I hope to get there more often because in the zone is where real beauty happens, the rest is just preparation.
The irony of this fearless zone is that I get there by convincing myself no one will ever read what I have written, but after it is written I often see it is something I would like to share. Perhaps this is why it reminds me of meditation because when we meditate we train ourselves to stop trying to control everything. If we stop trying so hard to live fully, we then live more fully. If we stop trying to produce great art, that is when the great art comes.
Do you have tips for getting into the zone? Do you have a zone for activities other than writing? Does it also feel like meditation to you?
4 thoughts on “Writing in the Meditative Zone”
I have no tips, though I think yours is a great method. My problem is that I’ve fallen so far out of the zone (in terms of writing) I don’t know if I can get back! I used to journal a good bit (it was my main form of writing) but for a variety of reasons fell out of the habit about six or seven years ago. I keep meaning to get back but just haven’t carved out the twenty- or thirty-minute block of time to do it. (Sort of like how I’m always meaning to do that for prayer/meditation.)
I did get into the zone at times last semester when I was working on my Python programs. It doesn’t feel like meditation to me, but like intense focus. I wasn’t thinking about the next thing I had to do or what time it was; I was completely focused on the program and getting it to work, and I was making all sorts of mental connections. It’s hard to describe, especially because it only happened a handful of times.
For me to get in the zone, I need the right environment. Headphones are always nice. I’m setting up the upstairs to be my personal studio. It’s well-lit, cozy (space heater!), and all my space. I’m going to pick up my desk and chair sometime next week, and then I can finally start using it. I’m the easily distractable type, so no cats are allowed. Unfortunately, I haven’t been distration-less very often, so I haven’t written or drawn much.
I have so many sketchbooks unused because nowadays I feel like anything I sketch has to be good enough to show people. This isn’t good. 😦
Getting rid of distractions gets me in the zone.
Like Rebecca I write more python than prose, but a good pair of over-the-ear headphones, some well curated Pandora stations or Grooveshark playlists and closing chat, email, twitter give me very little to do but code.
The zone is somewhere I end up after a long day…around 2 or 3 am, I can sit and flow.
But often flow is about having passion or vision that can pull you forward.