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Mar 11
Arts and Poetry
Fear and Contraction

photo credit: bluemoon8963 via photopin cc

photo credit: bluemoon8963 via photopin cc

COLUMN: Celebrating the Arts

On Writing

by Michelle Welch, Phoenix

I’ve talked about writing several times on the Phoenix blog, because it’s something I do and something that’s so embedded in my life that it offers all kinds of opportunity to practice, often in unexpected ways. One of these opportunities happened while I was taking the Joy in Everyday Life class. We were working on the contemplation exercise involving compassion, and I was having a lot of difficulty rousing any feelings of compassion toward anyone. It took me a while to figure out why.

At the time I was working on a new short story: actually a revision of a story I’d attempted writing several times before. (Incidentally, it’s a story I’ve blogged about before, too, which suggests how long I’ve been struggling with the project. And this was just its latest rendition.) I have a tendency to fear the ending of writing projects – every time, I’m overcome by the irrational and totally convincing thought that I’ll never finish. I can’t even articulate why; it’s not like I’ll run out of words or the world will end before I’m done. The fickleness of the publishing world doesn’t help, either.

This feeling was especially strong with this project, because I’d written at least three previous versions over the last five years or so. If none of them had worked out, what made me think this one would? I was so paralyzed by this fear that I abandoned a promising opening scene and let the project founder for a couple of weeks, doing anything I could to distract myself.

Studying the Shambhala and Buddhist teachings suggests to me that distraction is the thing we’re trying to work with – recognizing how distraction is a response to fear or discomfort, and how it prevents us from being present in our lives. It was kind of a shock, though, to suddenly realize how this was playing out in that class. I was afraid, so I was contracting. I was contracting, so I was distracting myself. I was distracted, so I was having trouble being present, either in my practice or in my work.

That night, after class, I got home and scribbled down some notes about how to finish my story. As soon as I had the chance, and sat down and wrote it, finishing it in two days. I was also able to get back to my practice and work on the compassion contemplation. There’s still work to do with the story, editing and evaluating, and it might not even be quite right yet. But it’s definitely served to teach me something, so even if I never publish it, it has had a purpose.

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1 response to “ Fear and Contraction ”
  1. Erik Blagsvedt
    Mar 14, 2015

    Thank you. Very helpful.

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