Life of a Creative-Part 20

Posted On September 17, 2015

Be a Zen Master

“If punctuation is about thought…then in order to punctuate, we have to know our mind, to know what we think, and when one thought stops and the other begins. We have to understand the journey of thought, how thought moves around in our mind…in order to write a good sentence, we have to become Zen masters, we have to understand our minds!” Natalie Goldberg, who studied under a Zen master for some time, knows a little about writing. She shares some of this wisdom in her book Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life.

Many people who are just starting out with writing, or with any creative endeavor, may ask, “How do I begin?” If they stick with it, they may then ask, “How do I get better?” The first is easy. To begin, we just pick up a pen or open a new document on our computer and put down what comes to us. The second is simple, if not always easy. Practice. That leads to exploration and experience and confidence. It also leads to knowing our mind. What helps us write, or be creative, and what gets in the way. We’re able to discover intimate knowledge about our Muse, and about our inner critic. One is the wild mind, the other, the monkey mind. When we become our own Zen master, we are able to walk between both minds.

Be in the Moment

There are many ways to practice writing, to practice creativity. If we’re stuck, we can move away from what we normally do and try something different. This often jogs loose an idea, a description, a character, a phrase. We take that and get back into our writing. “Poetry is good practice for all the other writing we do, because it brings us back to where we are. It asks us to settle inside ourselves and be awake.” These little forays into another medium or another genre are ways to bring us back to the moment, which is the only place that creativity happens.

Procrastination vs. Waiting

Anyone who has attempted to listen to their Muse and still function in the world knows the myriad things that captivate our attention and drag us away from our work. “Procrastination is a cutting off. It diminishes you. Waiting is when you are already in the work and you are feeding it and being fed by it. Then you can trust the waiting. Do not use the excuse of ‘waiting’ for the right idea or story in order to begin. That is procrastination. Get to work.”

Creatives battle procrastination. Creatives woo the Muse while waiting. Procrastination stems from fear. The types of fear are many. I won’t say they are unfounded. I will say that to be true to ourselves, we must find a way to face the fear, deal with it, move through it. Waiting happens when we work. We practice to know how to engage our Muse, and how to make her turn away from us. And so we wait. We show up. We allow ourselves to be present, to be open to the creative flow, to play with colors and textures and different rhythms while our Muse considers what to show us. Waiting is okay. We’re still working. Still creating. Still in joy. Procrastination is the opposite.

I’ve spent time in procrastination, and I’ve hung out while waiting. To view what I’ve created while waiting, while working, visit my website:

What do you do to bring yourself into the present moment? Do you spend more time with procrastination, or with waiting?

Written by Michele Venne

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