Compassion for your Writer Self
By Mayra Cuevas
Rejoicing in others
I deeply rejoice if you are a writer whose full time job is to work on your next book. I am not one of those people. At least not for now.
My main frustration with writing doesn’t come from lack of ideas, but from lack of time. Like most of the aspiring novelist, I struggle with carving out time to write between my full time job, family, friends, volunteer work, spiritual studies and those pesky everyday responsibilities like doing laundry, paying bills and shopping for groceries. Even when I try my very best to steal an hour here and there, the antagonistic forces are sometimes all too strong. Writer’s block would be a luxury, but neither my critique partner and mother of four, Prof. M, or I have the time for such indulgences. Any time we get is spent furiously clicking our keyboards.
It is here that compassion for your writer self needs to kick in.
Compassion for yourself
Buddhism defines compassion as a source of refuge, a heart that is moved by the pain of others, and prays for their release from suffering. It is a beautiful practice that takes us from a state where the heart is focused on others rather than the self.
Some of us are great at at showing compassion toward others while neglecting ourselves. We push ourselves to the brink of a meltdown and stress over our current circumstances, ignoring the fact they are only temporary. We have too much to do, and never enough time. We have great ideas for our writing, but we just can’t seem to have a free moment to write them down.
My teacher, a very wise monk, would tell me “pushing” will only add to our frustration and disappointment with our current situation. He said we need wisdom to discern when we can make practical changes to alleviate our situation and when we just need to relax into the difficulty and accept it for what it is. But more importantly, he said, we need to know our current conditions are temporary and will never be ideal. Knowing this in our hearts, protects us from discouragement, he said.
This teaching has proven invaluable. Since I began working on my book, there have been weeks when I don’t have the time to even open my laptop. It would have been easy to become discouraged during these times, but so far I haven’t. I am as enthusiastic about my book as I was at the beginning of the year.
I have learned from my own experience that acceptance of our reality allows us to relax and stay open to the possibility of more time, whenever it appears. Additionally, a relaxed mind allows the creative process to flow, while anxiety destroys the clarity of our thoughts.
A writer is always writing
When I can’t sit down to write for long stretches of time, I take comfort that there are “other” ways of writing. For example, I always carry a pen and notebook with me in case inspiration strikes, and instead of blasting the radio during my super long commute, I ride in silence thinking about my next scene and taking voice notes on my IPod. I don’t recommend writing and driving… although I’ll admit I’m guilty of having done it more than once.
And let’s be honest, if this is your first shot at a novel, like me, chances are you are not on a deadline. So what is the rush? If you are serious about developing your craft, I am sure you have figured out by now that you are in this for the long haul, and what a long haul it is. Patience is absolutely necessary if you intend to craft the best possible version of your story.
On my work desk I have a small yellow sticky note with a quote from Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Donald Murray that reads, “A page a day is a book a year.”
I read it every day as a reminder that by applying constant effort, one day soon my book will be completed.
Share your inspirational quotes! Post yours in the comments section below.