Early last year I started writing my Piper K Marsh novel. I wrote for three months and then I stopped. I couldn't go near the computer and I couldn't pick up a pen: even a shopping list freaked me out.
At the same time, my good friend Emma-Kate Wallace and I decided to go on a Buddhist meditation retreat. EK has been meditating for decades now and it shows. She's a beautifully compassionate person with passion and ethics guiding her life. I have done less meditation and I had never been on a silent retreat.
We arrived only to find out the retreat leader Vajradaka, a Londoner, was a creative mentor with a particular focus on artistic blocks. I smiled. This was no co-incidence. Vajradaka was generous with his time and listened to my predicament: I didn't know if I should continue writing when I had so much self-doubt and fear or if I should give it up and retrain to do something else.
Vajradaka said finish the project then see what happens as a result. (Now my husband will tell you it took a Buddhist monk to make me hear what he had been saying all along:) And you are right, Todd!
During the retreat, Vajradaka instructed us to let the subconscious give us images. I got comfortable, and asked for an image of water. Instantly, an image came to me of a large lake, so deep it was black and very cold. The sun shone but it was freezing. I stayed with the image asking myself questions: How did it relate to me? What was under the water? What was it like to swim in? How did the lake make me feel?
Images are the language of the subconscious and asking the subconscious for an image is easy for it to produce. It's a short cut in fact. We cut out having to think things up.
I went home, opened up my story and asked my subconscious: give me an image for where the story needed to go. Immediately, an image came. I wrote what I saw. I kept asking and the images kept coming. The block was over. I was still scared but in the moment of asking for an image I forgot about fear.
And Vajradaka? Well, he became my writing mentor, via skype. With his ferocious intelligence and creative insight I was able to continue to bring my struggles to him and not have to struggle on alone.
Do you have a writing mentor and how does it work for you?