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When the pen is too heavy to lift

I’m sitting on my pink couch, gray blanket covering outstretched legs, purring gray and white cat curled on top of my feet, watching intently as my pen scratches across the page, beautiful strains of cello music playing on my Insight Timer.


I’ve started writing every day after a hiatus of several weeks. It’s such a relief.



My daily meditation and writing practice nourished me and kept me sane through one of the worst years of my life—I’ve had plenty of bad years, but this one was particularly brutal. I was able to maintain a near-daily practice for several years because of a Facebook group that kept me accountable. The idea was to check in after writing—the check-in could be just the single word “wrote”—and others in the group would respond not with a comment but simply with a “like,” to indicate “I see you.”


Then the group dissolved, and over time my daily practice became less and less daily, even though I know very well how much good it does me.


 

I started feeling like the pen was

just too heavy to lift.


 


I’ve always said skipping a day here and there is no big deal. It’s actually part of the practice to do it “imperfectly.” But I think I may have found my edge—the outside limit of how many days I can skip before the wheels start to fall off.


A few weeks ago, I started feeling like the pen was just too heavy to lift.


An entire week went by without writing a single word. At the same time, I found myself struggling to find words to do revisions to some pieces I was working on.


Looking back on this, I notice that this is no coincidence. Without writing for myself daily, the words for other things seem less accessible, less ready. But the effects go beyond the page. As the words got harder to find, I began to doubt myself, not just as a writer, but eventually even as a human being.


The pesky old impostor-syndrome voices started hammering at me. "You're not really a writer" quickly morphed into "you're a complete fraud! who do you think you are? nobody wants to hear what you have to say! obviously you have nothing to say! you're ridiculous! irrelevant! a complete failure!" (I'm horrified to see this in print. I can't believe I even think such things.)


Eventually I crawled out from under the weight of all the unsolicited judgement and I picked up the pen again.


 

Acceptance of my state of mind, whatever it might be, instantly grounds some of the charge behind the emotion, even on those meltdown days.


 

As soon as I did that, the doubts began to subside. It’s not that I have no doubts at all—that little chorus of critical voices in the back of my mind never shuts up—but they’re not front and centre.


Writing every day, or nearly every day, helps me maintain perspective and equilibrium. This practice has been instrumental in my getting better at self-compassion and self-acceptance.


Acceptance of my state of mind, whatever it might be, instantly grounds some of the charge behind the emotion, even on those meltdown days.


And that actually is a big deal.


I’m relieved to be writing again, regaining a rhythm that’s been missing for a long while. I’m not striving to write every day or intending to write every day; I’m just doing it. It’s like the practice has taken root in my body, growing from the inside out.


The body sensation is completely different from when I’m writing from a sense of striving or setting intentions. It feels settled, grounded, strong. Unshakeable.


Meditation practice allows me to drop into the writing more deeply. I don’t have to sit for long or do anything more complicated than breathing. I usually sit for ten minutes or more, but even five minutes will do if I’m short of time.


Meditation doesn’t end at the cushion. Writing doesn’t end on the page.


Both are all-encompassing practices for life.


Meditation practice, especially compassion practice, is part of how I life my life. Meditating has taught me how to pause before I reply, how to respond instead of reacting.


Every part of my life is part of my writing practice. It's not separate. It's not like my brain can turn off, ever. Whatever writing I'm working on is constantly rolling around just under the surface of conscious awareness.


Even when the pen is too heavy to lift.