Illustrated by Peter Sheehan

Poet, Stephen Whiteside is back DeeScribewriting today to talk about how meditation influences his work.

So how does meditation help my writing? Firstly, it is almost impossible to suffer from writerʼs block once you start to meditate regularly. The ideas just flow.

The writing that I do while meditating has a slightly different quality to my other writing. It tends to be less inhibited and less linear; it is richer, and less predictable. Ideas take off in all sorts of unexpected directions. If I write a poem while not meditating, I am much more likely to be able to dictate the direction it takes. If I write while meditating, on the other hand, ʻthe gloves are offʼ, so to speak. Anything can happen!

Strictly speaking, of course, I donʼt write while I am meditating. The simple act of picking up the pen breaks the spell. However, words come into my mind while I am meditating, and these often take the form of rhymes.

I generally find this easier to do while lying in bed – usually last thing at night, but sometimes also first thing in the morning. So I will write a few verses in my head while meditating. Then I will become fearful of forgetting them, so I will get up to write them down. Not wanting to disturb my wife by returning to bed, I will try to continue to write the poem sitting at the lounge room table in my pyjamas – but alas, the well is dry! So I go back to bed, start meditating again, and the next few verses magically appear. (Is this cheating?) I might go through this process several times before the poem is completed, much to my wifeʼs chagrin!

Some might argue that, again, strictly speaking, I am not meditating while I write like this. After all, shouldnʼt the mind be empty during meditation? Iʼm not sure how best to answer this. Certainly, my mind is almost never empty during meditation. Perhaps it should be, but it isnʼt. Perhaps I am not meditating as well as the Buddhist masters, but it still feels very different to me from my normal waking state, and I find it extremely beneficial.

I am so glad I was conned into attending that ʻStress Managementʼ course all those years ago. It has changed my life, really. I probably should also state at this point that my experiences with meditation may not be typical. I can only talk of what has happened to me. I think I am a fairly anxious person at the best of times, so my ʻbox of painʼ may be much larger than yours! Then again, it could also be smaller – or just different in some way that I donʼt understand, and probably never will.

Illustrated by Craig Phillips. Published in “Blast Off” magazine, August 2007 (Volume 92, Number 7), by the New South Wales Department of Education and Training.

I would urge anybody to learn to meditate, but I would also encourage formal lessons. Like learning a language or a musical instrument, itʼs much harder to do it by yourself with an instruction manual and, as I say, the early days of meditation can be quite frightening and confronting. Stick with it, though, and Iʼm confident that you will find, like I did, that it changes your life. It will even help your writing!

© Stephen Whiteside 21.06.10

Thanks for sharing this with us Stephen. I’m off to meditate.

Happy meditating and writing:-)


Next week on Tuesday Writing Tips I’m going to be talking about wrestling with format.

9 thoughts on “HOW MEDITATION CAN HELP YOUR WRITING – By Stephen Whiteside

  1. Very interesting–I too meditate, and very often in a meditative state I get a solution to some problem I’ve been thinking about, whether about writing or not. I think when you meditate, you get in touch with a deeper and more resourceful part of your mind.

  2. I’ve always been drawn to meditation and at the end of each weekly Yoga session, we have a period of about 10-15 minutes of ‘relaxation’. It’s that, which i feel is most like I imagine Stephen is talking about. I certainly didn’t know about the concept of a ‘pain box’, but it makes absolute sense.
    I will keep being drawn to meditation and one day . . .

    thanks so much Dee and Stephen for both posts.

  3. Hi Dee and Stephen
    While I never considered that I was meditating, I do relate to Stephen’s night time scribbles. I find that as I lie down, and begin the process of ‘closing down’ for sleep, I will find rhymes pop into my head. I, too, then scribble them down before I lose them (without turning on the light so as not to disturb my husband – thereby making some of the scratchings almost illegible) I might find this happening over and over and then have to get up, and get it down on paper properly, by heading off to the lounge room and writing by the light of the heater, lol.
    It’s great to hear of other’s writing practices and fun to know I can relate to many of them.

  4. Hi Lynn

    I think I am a bit like you and meditate in a more informal way. I have actually taught myself to write in the dark so I don’t have to get out of bed when ideas pop into my head:-)


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