Your fingers move over your keyboard. They can hardly keep up with your mind. You type away for hours on end but when you finish it feels like it has only been five minutes. All is well in the world that you are now on top of. They call it the zone, but you feel Zen.
When you are writing yourself zen, your inner voice turns off. Your mind becomes quiet. That is why writing can be used as a very effective coping mechanism. It can bring inner peace, release frustration, and define emotions. It also allows the writer to do as they please in the fictional world.
Few people know how to get away with murder, but authors do. Just envisioning your mortal enemy. Putting them through hell and back, and getting away with it is amazing. And it doesn’t always have to be violent. Anything but. Read on to find out how you can write yourself Zen.
The art of Zen
Zen is a Chinese philosophy that mainly revolves around meditation. The aim is to be in the present without any judgment. A sort of mindfulness, if you will. Learning the true art of Zen takes years and years of practice. So when you read the term here, take it with a grain of salt.
I am not a Buddhistic monk (last time I checked), nor do I have extended knowledge of their philosophy. When I say Zen, I mean it in the popular modern-day form. That calm, peaceful feeling a decluttered mind can give you.
That being said, I do think that writing yourself into that state of mind is a true art. It takes focus to get into that rhythm. Focus is aimed purely at your writing. It shouldn’t be a big surprise that this comes with tons of benefits.
Besides feeling light and clean, you also will be able to write longer, increase your word count and even the quality of your work. So don’t underestimate this process. The art of writing yourself Zen isn’t just sitting back and waiting. It is working hard to change your vibration, get in the zone, and have at it. I find it delicious.
Where to start
I can hear a few of you out there think: ‘Sure Maartje, I believe you. But uhm, you sound vague right now. Where do I start?’ You are right but don’t worry just yet. The feeling it brings might sound a bit abstract, but the process is a lot more hands-on. Just perform these five steps, and you are golden.
01. eliminate all distractions
The master of horror, Stephen King, said it perfectly well in his book On Writing: ‘Write with your door closed, rewrite with your door open.’ He meant that you should write the first draft just for yourself, and ask for input when you work on your second. That also goes for Zen writing. You need to be alone. This process needs as few to no distractions as possible.
I like to lock myself in my room (because I have that luxury), put my phone on plane mode, turn my emails off, burn a scented candle, and turn on some white noise. Music distracts me, but the soft crashing of waves against a shore, or birds chattering away, brings me an inner stillness.
If you don’t have that personal space, go out to a café, park, or library. Invest in good quality noise-canceling headphones and a comfy playlist. Find a spot that works for you, because having the right environment and setting is already half the work.
02. Set a minimum time
It can feel quite daunting to turn your communication devices off, and sometimes the thought of it alone haunts you. It can keep you from focusing on your writing. The same goes for habits like checking Facebook or Insta every other minute, playing games on your phone, or simply staring out a window (guilty as charged).
Luckily there is an easy solution to that one. Set yourself a minimum time in which you dedicate all your focus to writing. Start with fifteen minutes. It is short enough so you can fully commit to it and long enough to get some work done.
Rest in between for five minutes, in which you can do whatever you like. You can gradually build out your time frames or keep writing when you finally hit that zone.
03. Have your needs answered
When I hit the zone, I notice nothing. I can keep for hours and forget to eat or drink. But I am pretty high maintenance while I am working my way up to that point. My mind likes to bother me for drinks, bathroom breaks, and something to nibble. If I don’t have it at the ready, my concentration falters and I need to get up in a search for my snacks. It’s not a habit I am happy about, but fortunately, one that is easy to accommodate.
Find out what needs to break your concentration. Do you absolutely have to have a cup of tea or coffee ready (even if it gets cold)? Make sure you have a pot standing on your desk so you can refill it. Are you a snacker like me? Cut up some cucumbers, carrots, fruits, or whatever is your fancy (I traded chips and dips in for healthy variations, which also helps), and have it ready on your desk. Get cold feet easily? Have slippers, socks, or even a hot water bottle ready.
Accommodate your needs well before they even come up. Be prepared.
04. release your emotions out
Writing yourself Zen will automatically help you release unwanted emotions, but these emotions can block you from starting in the first place. When I feel high-strung and my mind is overflowing with negative thoughts, it helps me to just write them down. It takes the edge off and has many benefits, including putting you in a writing mood.
The process is really simple. Set your timer for at least ten minutes, put your pen to paper (yes, pen to paper, we avoid the computer for this one), and write everything that pops up in your head. It doesn’t matter if it’s angry, sad, depressed, or even happy. Write. Drain that inner flow of emotions and cleanse yourself. You feel much lighter when you do.
Let me add a little side note here: you can always do this exercise before you start. No matter what mood you’re in. It helps you let go of the thoughts that tie you to the everyday buzz.
You have your snacks and drinks ready, you kicked everybody out of the house, or you have your headphones on, and your mind is in the right space? Good. Then it is time to start. Set your timer, put your butt into your chair, and write.
How to finish
This one is really up to you. If you have the luxury, write until you can write no more. You will know when you have reached that point where you are satisfied. Don’t push beyond it. Let it end on that natural flow.
If you decide to set a time, but you reach this point before its end, end the session. Writing yourself Zen should be a comfortable and easy practice, not a chore.
And there you have it. The power of writing is magnificent, and I do hope you get to experience it soon. For now, I’ll wish you happy writing.