On Being a “Writer” (part 7: Meditation, Routine, and Discipline)

Meditation brings meaning and balance to my whole life, not only the creative side. Especially living in NYC, I am constantly striving to find grounding activities and rooted routines. As I had touched on previously in my review of Fifty Shades of Grey, limits can actually be liberating. It took me quite a while to come to this realization as applied to my own life, and meditation was one of the major elements that led me to this sweet water.

Meditation does not necessarily have to mean what you think it does. Yes, I’ve sat cross-legged and barefooted with my eyes closed in a dimly lit room with a gong and some candles and sage burning. That can be a very tangible and grounding practice. However, if you’re the kind of person who holds that scene in disdain, don’t worry, there’s a practice for you, too! (I do suggest that if you are this kind of person, give it a try. I don’t say this in a preachy way, but first, you can’t knock it until you’ve tried it, and second, I encourage for your creative soul that you do something new…especially if it scares you. I’ll surely expound this in another post).

Some synonyms of meditation, when Googled, mean much more than the above description. This list includes: contemplation, thought, musing, pondering, consideration, reflection, deliberation, concentration, etc. If you intend to and let them, small things in your life can become meditations. My morning routine, as an example, has become a form of meditation for me. I wake up nearly every morning at the same time. I stand in the same spot and recite the same prayer and then set my intentions for the day. I then get my coffee at the same place (they actually get worried for me if I have a morning breakfast meeting, for instance, and don’t make it in).

This translates to writing very well. Annie Dillard writes in The Writing Life (another must read for writers), “a schedule defends from chaos and whim. A net for catching days.” Most writers, if they have anything to say about it, will tell you that you have to commit to making an appointment with yourself to write. Again, be kind to yourself. Structure does not have to mean stringency. If you miss one of your writing sessions, don’t beat yourself up. Just wise up and ask, really ask, why. Then, you’ll know for next time.

There’s a lot of work that gets done before I even sit down to my computer. I have to hold myself accountable to my appointments and, rain or shine, get up and do it all over again the next day. If you’re thinking this sounds like an iteration of the movie Groundhog Day, you’re not really wrong. If you had asked me when I was 25, having just moved here, I would have told you this sounds like my personal hell; but that girl had no idea what discipline meant.

See, the more work I can do to discipline myself with the small things, the more I actually train myself to appreciate and live in the moment and tolerate change. I can, most times, modify my feelings and actions when the big things don’t go exactly as planned. Thus, the Groundhog Day reference is pretty right. If I start every day the same way, I can only hope to improve on the model. If I wake up to a completely new set of strides each day, how can I measure progress if there isn’t a level plane?

Also, in this #startuplife, every day is essentially different. I love it, and on a good day I am excited, high-energy, and engaged; but the dark side of the moon is that this scattered schedule is also sometimes destabilizing and destructive. When I was consulting in a more corporate environment, routine was built into almost every moment down to what I ate for lunch on any given weekday. There was some benefit to that. I really don’t like to waste time. One of my goals is to really know what I want and go do or get it. Not because I’m spoiled, not because I’m stringent, but because I don’t like to waste thought and energy on mostly meaningless things.

This is starting to make me sound like a robot. I’m not. If you know me, you know that I love spontaneity: I ride in on chance, careen through dark streets of the unknown, and eat risk for breakfast. But what allows me this is that I strive to command all that I can reasonably control. And the rest? The rest is the best.

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