As writers, we spend a lot of time buried deep inside our own minds. We spent countless hours, if that is an adequate manner in which to accurately quantify the statement, locked away in the confines of our own minds.
This is something we all share, a common bond that transcends genre, it transcends genders and culture. Writing is a mental game, and as such, we owe it to ourselves to make sure that our minds are as sharp and as tidy (a relative term you will understand), as possible.
How often have you heard, or you yourselves used the term, I’m in the writing zone, or to the writing cave! My muse is on fire, or other general words to that effect.
I won’t count hands, because, well, there must be a lot of you out there with them fingers raised.
Have you ever actually wondered that this zone is all about? I mean, it is not just writers that talk about being in it. Athletes are also prone to naming this infamous zone. It is a wonderful place. It is a place where we can lay aside thoughts. That includes the doubts that so often tend to lurk in the background of our minds; the fears and worries of where we are, and what we are doing. Even the general noise of everyday life falls away. Our fingers dance over the keyboard, or our bodies glide over the courts or around the course. We react not to the situation, but to our own instincts. We trust ourselves and we trust in our abilities.
We enter… the zone.
In essence, this place is very much a spiritual place. Whether you choose to believe it or not, the mind works in its own mysterious ways, and when it enters the zone, there are a great many parallels that can be drawn to the concept of Zen.
This begs the question of whether a writer could benefit from regular Zen based training sessions. These would include sessions on visualization, meditation and reflection. Exercises and practices designed to increase your mental toughness. Tools to develop the mind so that clarity and tranquillity can be created, not merely found by accident.
Studies would suggest that this is the case. While I have not seen anything that would directly relate to writing, I did find a paper written based on over twenty-five years of study. The subjects in question were athletes. In the paper Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, a psychology professor at the University of Chicago found that there were certain characteristics amongst people that transcended matters of race, gender and cultural influences. All of these shared attributes were linked to a certain level of mental toughness; the ability to cast aside self-doubt, a clarity when visualizing their goal, and a strong emotional balance.
Admittedly, none of these things sound like many of the writers I know (and love), but then again, I don’t know many writers that practice cleaning their mind, however one successful writer that was a big fan of the Zen mentality was Ray Bradbury. His success as an author cannot be questioned. He even wrote a book about the Zen in the Art of Writing (I would love to get a copy of this somehow).
There is proven credence in the theory to adopting a Zen approach to things, outside of the writing world too. Just take a look at legendary basketball coach Phil Jackson. He pioneered the introduction and incorporation of yoga, meditation, and positive visualization in his players. This is the man who won eleven championships and earned himself the nickname the Zen Master.
Imagine turning these techniques upon ourselves. Envisioning our writing success. Perceiving our success, envisioning our stories with a clear mind. The possibilities are certainly more than intriguing, do you not agree?