This morning, I was reading an article by Buddhist therapist Tara Bennett-Goleman in Shambhala Sun. The article was about tenderness, about treating others and oneself with loving care. The author makes the point that tenderness—with ourselves and others—provides us with a sense of security, with what she calls a “secure base.”
I reflected a lot on Bennett-Goleman’s article, not only because I thought it was useful for life, but because it seemed applicable to writing as well. (Actually, I almost always find life advice applicable to writing.)
Feeling insecure, unsure, and fearful—this is the bane of the writer’s life. Treating ourselves with tenderness moves us away from that anxiety to a secure base in our writing. How do we do that? Bennett-Goleman provides the answer:
"Acts of kindness, clear communication, caring concern, and empathic attunement all prime our own secure base. So does nurturing our positive qualities, finding meaning in our lives, seeing things with an accurate discernment (rather than through a distorted lens), and creating safe inner harbors. The more we use these internal paths, the greater our confidence grows in our inner resources."
In this compact paragraph, Bennett-Goleman provides a number of ways to create a secure base in our lives. We can also use them to provide ourselves with a secure base from which to write:
Treat yourself with kindness and caring concern. Many writers are far gentler with other people than they are with themselves. Do you find yourself thinking things like: "This poem is terrible!" "I'll never be a very good writer." "I wish I write like [some famous writer]." "I just don't have enough talent." Try being kind to your inner writer instead. Be supportive and caring. Be your own best friend.
Continually practice empathic attunement. If you are a writer, you are probably far more skilled than most people at being attuned to the emotions and experiences of others. But we need to be attuned to ourselves as well. It is easy to deny or reject our own feelings. Pretending we're not afraid when we are, pushing aside the true sources of our pain, stifling our anger—few things are more destructive to your writing. Becoming attuned with our inner lives--acknowledging and giving voice to our fear, hurt, and anger--is essential to writing with honesty.
Find meaning in your writing. When my writing begins to falter, when I find my ideas getting stale or my discipline failing, I stop and ask myself why I write. What does it mean to me to sit down every day and put words on the page? Why did I even start writing to begin with? What is the purpose of it all? Reconnecting with the meaning of my writing is one of the most powerful things I do to keep my writing alive.
Strive to view your work with accurate discernment. The core of writing is telling the Truth. That requires discernment. The more we can shed the distorting lenses through which we see the world, the clearer our vision will become. Learning to see without those lenses is a lifetime task, but one that is absolutely essential to writing.
Nurture your positive qualities.Identify the strengths of your writing. If you find it difficult to figure out, get a teacher or editor to help. Or ask readers what they especially like about your work. Better yet, ask yourself what you like best about it. Once you’ve identified your unique strengths, foster them. Give them the space and attention they need to grow.
Creating Safe Inner Harbors. Writing can be fun and full of light—and it can also be painful, forcing us to face our own inner demons or the darker side of society. In Writing as a Sacred Path, I offer exercises to help writers create what I call “life savers” and “safe havens” when they write—things they can do to reassure themselves and regain a sense of safety when the journey becomes too painful. Learning to find these places in our writing can give us the strength to forge ahead, even into territory full of grief and fear.
Writing from a secure base means writing with confidence and tranquility. When you are secure in your writing, blocks and procrastination dissipate and creativity blooms. Starting with a secure base, there’s no end to what you can build.
Causes Jill Jepson Supports
Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...