I love the image of the writer as warrior. In Writing as a Sacred Path, I explore the Warrior Writer as one of four sacred pathways for writers, and I have always found it the one that resonates most with me, especially when I’m facing a writing challenge.
Writers are like warriors in many ways. We are:
Imagine a warrior who goes onto the battlefield without these qualities. The undisciplined warrior wouldn’t have spent the years of hard work to develop the skills she needs. The unskilled warrior would be annihilated. The dishonorable warrior might win, but for evil rather than good. And the coward wouldn’t have become a warrior to begin with.
Now imagine a writer without the same qualities—without discipline, skill, honor, or courage. She wouldn't get any further than the warrior who lacks them.
Clearly, writers can learn a lot on the Warrior Road. But the very thought of trying to develop the qualities of the warrior can be intimidating at first, especially for writers who think of themselves as bookish and reserved and not particularly warrior like.
So, how do you get started? There are actually some very simple steps you can take. Here are three.
Simple Step # 1: Develop Courage by Writing Your Fear
Being courageous means acknowledging your fear. Warriors aren’t people who don’t feel fear. They’re people who walk with fear every day. "Fear is lurking in our lives, always, in everything we do," wrote Chogyam Trungpa in Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior. The moment you acknowledge your fear, it stops being overwhelming. Allowing yourself to be fearful is one of the most liberating things you can do.
Sit down right now and write about your fear. Open up and let your fear onto the page. What are you afraid of? Failure? Poverty? Death? Embarrassing yourself on the page? Perhaps you are fearful for someone else. That is part of your fear, too.
There. You’ve acknowledged your fear. Post it where you can see it. It can’t hurt you now: You’ve locked it onto the page. When you start to feel blocked or overcome by fear, look at that page. There is your fear. Write in spite of it. That is courage.
Simple Step # 2: Create Honor in Your Life by Writing the Truth
There is one way to be honorable: Write the truth. Honorable writing is writing that pulls back the curtains, that brings light into the dark places. Nonfiction must be true. So must fiction, poetry, all writing. The most far-fetched fantasy tale must tell the truth.
Truth doesn’t mean writing facts. It means writing the truth of the human experience. Write your personal truth, which is also the truth of all human beings. Be authentic. Open up.
Sit down right now and write one true statement. Write the truth as you see it (which is the only truth you can tell). Write the truest statement you can.
Simple Step # 3: Keep Writing to Become Disciplined and Skillful
There is one and only one way to develop the skill and discipline of the Warrior Writer. Keep writing
How do you keep writing? If you’re blocked or frustrated, this question might seem like a giant coming at you from across the battlefield. But there is a solution.
Put your pen on the page or your fingers to the keyboard and write a single word. Pick the first word out of your brain and write it. Don't worry if it's "why" or "table" or "coordinates." Just get it down. Now pick a second word and write it. Now pick a third. Continue.
It doesn’t matter at this point whether you’re writing well, saying something important, or even making sense. The skill will come. The meaning will reveal itself. Give it time. Keep writing. Keep writing.This is discipline.
There. Three simple steps. Write your fear. Write the truth. Keep writing. You're on your way to becoming the Warrior Writer.
Want to learn more about the Warrior Writer and other sacred writing paths? You can find more than 85 exercises in Writing as a Sacred Path.
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Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...