Shelley Widhalm

How do you center yourself in writing and life?

In Finding Life's Meaning, The Writing Life, Writing on March 8, 2015 at 11:00 am

I used to think the question “what is the meaning of life?” was huge with an all-important answer that I couldn’t figure out.

The answer, I believed, was in tomes, churches and the sky.

But it’s more personal than that.

The meaning of life is what we make of it. It’s how we find our importance. It’s our passion. It’s how we spend our time when it’s purposeful with direction.

That question also is important for writing when you ask, “why do I write and what is the meaning that I get out of it?” There is a reason and a motivation to write, or it becomes a chore and an attractor for writer’s block or stucked-ness.

I’ve written without passion many times, such as college essays, cover letters, news articles when I did a quick interview or didn’t go to the scene, and short stories or novels when I got too focused on a word or page count. Technically, I could do the writing, but that unexplainable being in love, being in the moment, being totally there for the words was missing.

So, how do you keep the passion going, especially when frustration, boredom, loneliness or the not-wanting-to-work feelings arrive? It’s like with running, where that first half-mile seems painful and annoying, but then when the first or second mile is completed, the runner’s high kicks in and there’s a pattern to the movement, making the rest of the laps seem easier.

Do the same with writing.

Be awkward at first, not knowing where you’re heading, except around the track of possible words and ideas, but build momentum from there. Let yourself become centered in the moment, drawing into the task and the words that result. Reward yourself once the task is completed by marking in a log how many hours, words or pages you wrote or doing something you enjoy but is a guilty pleasure (so you’re doing the work, then the play).

Schedule certain times or days to write to make it a regular habit, like going to the gym every other day or running daily for a half-hour. Let the writing give outline to this schedule. Make it something to look forward to, to get satisfaction from, to know you accomplished something. Let it be a hobby, a love or even more.

Adding solidity to how you write gives it an anchor, because without scheduling time for your passions and what motivates you, the desire becomes stuck in the headspace without an outlet. It’s like making the New Year’s resolution and going to the gym once or twice and then giving up.

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