You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day. Unless you are too busy—in that case you should sit for an hour. —Zen Proverb
A World On Fire
Writers are often plagued with doubts about their work. Over the past several days, many wonderful writers I know have expressed that they feel their work is unimportant or irrelevant to current events. Of course, if you are a writer who is in the thick of writing about racial injustice, the pandemic, historic unemployment, or myriad other relevant topics, I hope that you are aware of how important your work is at this moment. But for those of us who are affected by/concerned about these topics but don’t focus on them in our work, it is difficult to feel a sense of purpose in what we are doing. But that does not mean that we should stop doing it.
Writing Is The Path
If you are unsure what to do next or how to help in a world full of suffering, perhaps one thing you can do is to simply clarify your thoughts and priorities with ten minutes of writing.
One of my favorite excerpts from “The Desiderata”, by Max Ehrmann, is, “Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.” For writers, this work is not just about collecting a paycheck. This is a vocation; it is work of the spirit. Just as religious people find comfort and guidance in rituals and religious texts and people who meditate find clarity in their daily practice, writers find insight and peace through our words. Studies have shown that writing can improve mood, health, and focus. If you are unsure what to do next or how to help in a world full of suffering, perhaps one thing you can do is to simply clarify your thoughts and priorities with ten minutes of writing. Express your fears and frustrations on the page. That exercise might very well reveal your priorities and help you decide what steps you want to take toward a solution.
We Are Large
And if your work in progress does not directly relate to the current crises, that’s okay. We are large; we contain multitudes. I have seen a grieving widow laugh at a joyful memory of her husband during a memorial service, and that laughter was healing for everyone present. The question is not, “How can I write while the world is on fire?” But, rather, “How can I use this writing to help me see the light that accompanies the heat in the flames?”
I am wishing you well, and I hope you can find the words to express whatever is in your heart.