Numerous western writers have been inspired in their work by Buddhism. The list includes authors Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginzburg, Natalie Goldberg, Robert Pirzig, Alan Watts, Peter Mathiessen…and many more. Whatever connection these authors found between Buddhism and their work is undoubtedly different for each of them, but meditation practice is a common thread. I have found that the basic practice of Buddhism, mindfulness meditation, can be one useful tool for addressing writer’s block.
Central to the practice of mindfulness meditation is learning how to observe the ceaseless activity of your mind. Problematic mental patterns that plague writers, such as perfectionism, self-criticism, overwhelm, fear, and resentment, typically underlie the struggle with initiating or sustaining writing. Mindfulness practice helps you catch these patterns in the act, identify with them less, and be less controlled by your neurotic thoughts.
If you are stalled in your writing, the practice of mindfulness meditation is worth experimenting with. Books by Jon Kabot-Zinn (The Full Catastrophe) and Jack Kornfeld ( A Path with Heart) are a good place to start to get a flavor of the practice. A good thing about mindfulness meditation is that there is no need to ascribe to any particular religious doctrine or join any group to do it. It’s just a tool for working with your mind.
The problem, however, with this excellent advice is that initiating and sustaining a consistent meditation practice is almost as hard as writing every day. It’s real easy to not do it, for exactly the same reasons that people avoid writing. Here’s a tip – it’s much easier to meditate regularly if you do it with other people.
Maybe Buddha came up with his philosophy that life is suffering because he was a blocked writer. That would explain why so many authors resonate with his teachings.