Facing the Abyss — Writing as Meditation

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAEternal nothingness is OK as long as you’re dressed for it — Woody Allen

As an idea entrepreneur, you are going to write. This post is about dressing up psychologically for the nothingness created by writing. Sometimes I call this blank space the abyss.

The Encarta® World English Dictionary offers several definitions of abyss:

a chasm or gorge so deep or vast that its extent is not visible…. something that is immeasurably deep or infinite…. a situation of apparently unending awfulness…. hell thought of as a bottomless pit….

Ouch. Kinda grim. Yet while writing, you might find that such definitions acquire a dim resonance.

Just pull out a new sheet of paper. Or, open up a new file on your computer.

It’s blank.

That’s the abyss.

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Some writing teachers counsel you to avoid the abyss. Never open up a blank space, they say. Pull out something that you’ve written before and edit it. Or, do some free writing. Just start moving your fingers and write anything at all. Fill up the void as quickly as possible.

I understand the reason for such strategies. Facing a blank space strips us naked, psychologically speaking.

Even so, there might be a benefit to hanging out in the abyss for a few moments. Any feeling that terrifies us also has the potential to liberate us. The key is to simply greet it with mindful awareness, moment by moment.

If we drop the habit of resisting unpleasant mental states, we can simply observe them as they arise and pass away. We develop a still point of internal stability—a place that is immune to changing conditions.

This is where writing merges with meditation.