The Mind is Never Empty


I’ve had a long few weeks of writing. Working two freelance jobs, relearning how to do math for one of them, blogging every day, and generally working my writerly tail off.

Every now and then, I pause in the middle of a particularly difficult sentence, paragraph, article, and with a thin thread of panic, I reach into my mind, and it is empty.

And in the vexing way of the mind, it is always empty when I need it to be full the most – when I must begin a project, article, or story. When I really need words the most – words that always come ready to hand, all the voices are suddenly silent.

What if the words never come back, I wonder. What if this gift of writing, of language and grammar has been loaned to me cosmically, and now is suddenly revoked, and I have no say in it?

From what I understand, I am not alone in my fear. Anyone who makes a living with their intellect and creativity must surely be afraid.

But as anyone who has ever practiced meditation can tell you, the mind is never truly empty; it never stops.

We sit down and try to quiet the mind, and suddenly is is a torrent of thoughts, old emotions, catches of song lyrics. It can be exhausted for a minute, or a day, but not for long, but it is the job of the mind to think, to imagine, to create. This is the birthright of our humanity, and does not cease until we do.

The mind is not exhaustible. More, it is like one of those trick vases used by street magicians. Over and over, they pour water out until surely the vase is empty, but then five minutes longer, it is full yet again, as if by magic.

And then what do we do, though, when we are writing and suddenly the stream of words has run out? What if we don’t have time until that magician’s vase is full again?

We take what it gives us. We listen until that song lyric, that worry about our aching tooth, the face of an old crush from fifth grade who still makes our stomach hurt. We listen for the next thing, and we take it. Then the next.

We take those ideas like puzzle pieces, and we start from there, letting the thoughts well back up and spill over onto our pages, into our laps, over our keyboards until we have written whatever we set out to write – perhaps even a novel in a month.

*If you want to show you appreciation for my work here and elsewhere, please consider donating a small token to the Office of Letters and Light under my fundraising page to help me get into The Night of Writing Dangerously. When you donate any amount – even just $1.00, I will send you a password for my Sponsor Content page for the year – get exclusives to excerpts from my novel, secret writing stashes, and other goodies. Keep writing! -Michelle

2 thoughts on “The Mind is Never Empty

  1. Thanks for the reassurance PP. It’s not uncommon to freeze and almost panic. When running a race, in the early stages I’ll often tighten up and say to myself ‘OMG, I can’t do this’ but of course you can once you loosen up, let it flow. Even the most limited person has endless thoughts and ideas if they have the skill and method of telling them.

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