How Meditation Can Help a Writer

May 7, 2018 § 19 Comments

Sweta_Headshot_brevityBy Sweta Srivastava Vikram

At the 2014 Academy Awards, Robert De Niro’s intro of the best screenplay nominees caught the attention of many. “The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing”, he said, before continuing, “Isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.” His comment was cruelly funny and spot-on.

Researchers have found that writers face a greater risk of depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse.The stresses of the writing life — constant rejections, uncertainty, erratic highs & lows, and usually low pay add fuel to the fire of insecurity.

But, over the years, I’ve come to learn that there are ways in which a writer’s mind can remain calm and healthy: that magic word is meditation. I am not guaranteeing that meditation is what will turn you into an international, award-winning, best-selling, prolific writer. But with a daily meditation practice, you start owning your writing, stop leaving things to chance and moods and whims, and put an end to the self-victimization when rejections come your way.

Why meditation? 

— Meditation can help you tap into your full creative juices and allow you to unravel the layers of ideas trapped deep inside your mind. Imaging and the Osher Research Center found that people who practiced mindful meditation were able to adjust the brain wave that screens out distractions and increase their productivity more quickly that those that did not meditate.

— Between social media, emails, newsletters, online ads, we are constantly bombarded with hot writing trends and best-selling genres. In this over-stimulated state, the pressure to blindly follow what others are doing can be high. Meditation calms your nerves and allows the brain to process the information it has soaked up from over-engaging. Meditation also trains the mind to turn off the outside stimulus and focus on the inside. That’s when you can connect with the ideas within and make honest discoveries about what you want to write about, not what others think you should write about.

— Ever felt stuck in your writing? Or do you have any manuscripts catching dust? Or do you find yourself ineffectively juggling multiple projects and then judging yourself harshly for not succeeding? Meditation changes both the function and structure of the brain to support self-control. It can help improve focus and attention; as a result, it can reduce fatigue. It reduces stress levels and alleviates anxiety. If we can reduce stress, our creativity and ideas have the space to become more lucid.

— Meditation can help protect your energy. Cultivating a daily meditation practice can lower the effects of an emotionally crippling disease called FOMO (fear of missing out) where we over-extend ourselves and feel the need to be present at all the readings and events. Meditation teaches you be present in the moment and show up for people and events that mean something to you. And not mindlessly say a YES to the million invites that are darted your way just because you fear you’ll miss out. It’s important to prioritize your writing days and creative energy. A calm and focused mind, a gift of meditation, will help formulate newer ideas.

— You don’t have to tell me, but have you ever been jealous of a fellow writer beyond reasonable understanding? Have you felt insecure over an extended period of time about your writing career and done things (even if unintentionally) to sabotage your health and sanity? Well, meditation improves a wide range of willpower skills, including impulse control. It encourages a healthy lifestyle and makes you more compassionate. Once you become kinder to yourself and understand that someone else’s success isn’t a reflection on your failures, you will automatically become more compassionate towards others.

— Meditation can create happiness. That happiness comes from self-acceptance. Not everyone becomes a Pulitzer Prize winner or wins a grant and that is okay. Find out why you write what you write and carve out your very own path to creative happiness.

— Meditation gives you the courage to speak up as it also increases self-awareness. That said, sometimes, speaking up and speaking out can create for a lonely existence. And “feeling alone” can impact our emotional and physical health negatively. Meditation benefits cardiovascular and immune health and promotes a healthy lifestyle.

If a few years ago you’d told me that I would rely on a daily meditation practice to elevate my creativity and productivity, I would have rolled my eyes. This is because, like many others, I used to believe that writers and artists thrive best under chaos. I used to think bouncing off of walls and sleepless minds contribute to the making of a successful writer/poet/artist. I am grateful to have been proven wrong. Meditation is a gift, which is simple, easy, and rewarding. Embrace it so you don’t rob yourself of the opportunity to become the best writer you can be on so many levels.

I invite you to take out 10 minutes every day. Set an alarm, so the monkey-brain doesn’t keep nagging, “Are we done yet?” Close your eyes and focus on your breath. You can sit or lie down. Thoughts will arise. Don’t judge them. Don’t question any feelings. Just observe. Every time that your mind wanders, bring it back to the breath.

Or as Bruce Lee has written, “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

Sweta Srivastava Vikram, featured by Asian Fusion as “one of the most influential Asians of our time,” is a best-selling author of 12 books, five-times Pushcart Prize nominee, mindfulness writing coach, social issues advocate, and a certified yoga & Ayurveda counselor who helps people lead creative, productive, and healthier lives. Louisiana Catch (Modern History Press 2018), her debut U.S. novel, is the #1 new release on Amazon under women’s divorce fiction and featured on U.K.’s list of “Books to Read in 2018.” Born in India, Sweta spent her formative years between the Indian Himalayas, North Africa, and the United States collecting and sharing stories. She writes about women, multiculturalism, wellness, and identity.  She lives in New York City with her husband and in her spare time, teaches yoga to female survivors of rape and domestic violence. You can find her in these online spaces: Twitter (@swetavikram), Instagram (@swetavikram), and Facebook.

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