A Cup of Steam

The deeper I go into the day, and the harder I bang my head against blank pages, the more frustrated I become. I know the problem. I know the solution. But knowing doesn't always motivate me to fix it. Then this morning I was thrown a life preserver. I read a blog recommended by Debra El-Ramey, and I knew I couldn't mess around anymore.

Throughout October I meditated for over an hour each day, and on some days two and three hours. All that meditation cleared away obstacles to creative flow. And so for the last week I've been writing and having many good ideas. But in the last week I've also done very little meditating. Not even ten minutes a day. And it has finally caught up to me. 

This is where writers' block begins. This is the line where, on the other side, writing starts to feel like work. The words aren't there today like they have been. It's more difficult to focus and concentrate on writing, editing, and brainstorming.

When I began writing again two Sundays ago (October 29), after nearly five months off from the craft I love, I told myself that I could succeed if, and only if, I continued daily meditation. I knew going into this that I had to give myself that time. One hour, two hours, three hours. I couldn't lose sight of that. And of course, a little over a week later, I have not followed through on my swing.

The longer I challenge my creativity, the more tension builds in my brain. The symptoms are loss of focus, grouchiness, disinterest in writing and increased negativity. It happens every time, but this time is where it ends. No longer will I abuse my imagination by working it endlessly for days and weeks and months. I know even now I could push myself and last another few weeks, but then I'd hit that eventual writers' block. I can't afford that. Writing is way too much fun!

Meditation releases tension. Meditation is like opening a release valve. If I can sit in meditation for two hours, when I'm done I know I'll feel fresh and new. Most importantly, the tension will be gone.


I always liked the analogy that writing is like drawing water from a well. But I've got a better one now.

Writing is really like boiling water. Water symbolizes creative ideas, the fire on the stove symbolizes the writing process, the kettle symbolizes my brain, and the steam the fire turns the water into symbolizes creative tension. The tension must be released, or the whole thing will blow up.

The pressure inside the kettle can be relieved in two ways. I can turn the flame off—stop writing—or I can release the steam, the tension, through relaxing activities. I'd rather release the steam and let the fire keep boiling the water, than to turn the stove off.

To relax, some writers run, go to work, play with their children, listen to music, watch TV, read books, etc.

I meditate.

Meditation keeps the world in focus so I don't take things, big or small, too seriously. It drives out the perfectionism I'm prone to, and allows me to enjoy the process of life (and writing) as if I'm not an outsider trying to get in, but already deeply seeded in the action. When I'm undivided from the world around me, it's so much easier to be part of it without fear of failing, being rejected, or getting hurt. And when I'm calm, I'm more in-tune with my intuition and can more easily access my creativity. I can turn the stove up to high heat without worrying about getting burned—or running out of fuel for my fire.

I certainly don't have to worry about the kettle blowing up.

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7 Responses to A Cup of Steam

  1. I still run into writer's block no matter what avenue of mental release I take. I have so many topics already written about on paper..all I have to do is type it into a post and put images with it...that's all. And I still can't get it out there. It just happens sometimes. And if I had to guess, I would say this happens to most all of us :)

  2. J.R. I totally know the frustration of writer's block. I'm glad that meditation works for you. It works for me too, although I'm not sure I'm actually meditating. I tend to find relaxing activities, inspirational words to read, good music, and long walks. I am usually uptight about something when writer's block hits, and I need to surrender my grip on whatever it is.

    I agree with Mary. I think it happens to all of us. I just try not to give it too much attention...lest it get bigger than life;)

    Your analogies are amazing J.R.


  3. I've been enjoying your blogs...Look forward to the next one. A.M.Sawyer

  4. I agree, Mary. It happens to all of us and it'll probably happen to me again, I just hope that it doesn't happen for as long as it did this summer. That was pretty bad!

    Thank you, Leah :)
    Me, too. My writers' block doesn't have to have anything to do with writing. Any kind of emotional stress seems to throw me for a total loop.

    I appreciate it, A. M.

  5. Hey Nova...

    Thanks for this article dear!! A writer can understand each word of it. Now, I too feel I should do something to relax, m nt even in my sleep!

    Lost of love
    Keep posting such good stuff!


  6. I would love to do meditation to help my writing, but I'm terrible at it. I'm naturally inclined to sleep when I try. I really need to exercise instead, something my brain and my body is in desperate need of. Perhaps reminding myself that physical activity helps not just the body, but my writing as well, will help give me the motivation I need.

    A very well written article. Thank you!

    1. Physical activity is definitely as important. Honestly, if I HAD to choose between the two on any given day, I'd go for a run or something...knowing that I can meditate while I run, of course ;)


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