Okay, I’m messing around with words in the title. I borrowed a phrase “Right Effort” from an ancient text called the Digha Nikaya. The quote I’m referring to states, “Right effort is that which will create the necessary conditions for the mind to be focused, allowing clarity and concentration in order that you may achieve completion in your task.”
Creating clear concentration is difficult to achieve most days, and certainly it is difficult to achieve for any sustained period of time, even if only for a day.
That’s why people go on retreats. They get a chance to break away from the noise of life so they can find out what is going on behind the scenes in their own minds when all the distractions are removed.
In ancient texts like the Digha Nikaya, though, there is an idea that we can carve out periods of calm even in the midst of tumultuous life. Right now, our tumult consists of two grandchildren and a dog running around the house. We face a tragic disaster every few minutes, and then we get a little calm until the next catastrophe. In the midst of this, my wife and I find bits of time to work.
Sometimes that is the best we can do even when the grandkids and dog aren’t visiting and wreaking havoc. In order to call ourselves writers, though, we have to be persistent. We have to continue to apply steady pressure in the write direction (sorry–it’s another play on words). We were not born writers. We work every day to be writers . . . which makes us writers.
Think of that the next time you have a few minutes to spare. Take time when you are sitting in the car waiting for someone and capture what you mind is offering at that moment. If you have a smartphone, take notes. If you don’t, get a small notebook and scribble down whatever comes to mind. Apply the write pressure to your life so that you can righteously claim to be a writer.
When you get larger chunks of time, you can work on cultivating the focused mind capable of clear concentration that ancient sages worked to achieve. Once you find yourself in that zone, see what you find . . . and write about it!
An interesting thing happens when you write every chance you get. The action of writing tells your subconscious mind that you really do think writing is important, so it begins to generate ideas for you. Ideas well up from somewhere, and it doesn’t really matter where, as long as they keep coming. The more you write, the more ideas you get. You find yourself unable to stop them.
You should know that you have ideas all the time. If you are like most people, though, you have learned to ignore them as you go about your day. After all, ideas aren’t always a good thing, right? What about those ideas that get in the way. Well–think about them as fodder for writing and get out that smartphone. Capture what you are thinking and see what kind of writer you are.