I sit quietly at my desk, my mind purposely and contentedly blank. I am waiting in confidence for the next idea. This is a first for me. Normally, this office space is full of distractions. My mind jumps around. Pay that bill. Answer that invitation. Renew that library book. I’ve made attempts to deal with it by taking every single thing off the desk, putting it in a pile somewhere where I can’t see it, and only keeping the blank paper or notepad and pen in front of me. My mind wasn’t fooled by that trick. It persisted in wandering, making mental to-do lists or reliving past triumphs or humiliations. I’ve tried writing at the local library or coffee house. But, silly me, I always took along a book, “just in case.” Or I succumbed to people-watching. Or ran into somebody I know, a constant possibility in my small town.
No, the skill is to quiet the mind itself, no matter what else is going on. If I can do that, all the distractions around me will fade. It takes faith to do this. The temptation is to think, “well, nothing’s happening, so I may as well give it up for now and go make coffee.” It also takes courage. My inner critic doesn’t only judge my actual work. My inner moralist insists I should be “doing something,” not wasting time staring into space. I should be “keeping busy” or improving my life somehow. I am not alone in being subject to this judgmental attitude. That old saying “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” haunts a lot of us. So, it took some relearning to be able to sit quietly, without guilt or impatience, being comfortable ignoring all the other life tasks nagging for attention. Yet, it’s a necessary skill for a writer–or at least for me. But now that I’ve been able to do it once, I can do it again. Some call this meditation. Some call it contemplation. I call it writing.