Post 29: Quiet Contemplation – A Tool for Better Writing

I was looking through my older posts on the blog this morning. I came to realize that I don’t write as many poems these days as I used to. My blog was my corner of the internet to post poems and the occasional rant. Now it is the other way around. I rant more and write the occasional poem. I don’t feel like writing a poem as much as I used to.

I began wondering about this. I wanted to understand what had changed in the last year that made me write fewer poems. I thought about it for a while and I came to realize that there were two main reasons for this change.

One, over the last year I have become more comfortable writing articles (rants) on the blog. When I started blogging I wasn’t so sure. Why would anyone want to read these articles about nothing? But I decided that they help me with my writing skills (I think!). As a result, there have been more such articles.

The second reason is the most important one. The amount of time that I spend in quiet contemplation has reduced. What is this quiet contemplation, you ask? It is the time spent thinking and dreaming. Some would call it idle time or time wasted doing nothing. They are right, of course. Except that, here, doing nothing only refers to physical inactivity. The mind, on the other hand, is free to travel and cook up ideas, stories and poems. The mind is free to recollect and revisit emotions, conversations, books, and articles. The mind is free to go over anything that can inspire a few creative verses.

Such time is best enjoyed in silence and solitude. Until I graduated last May, I had a lot of time for quiet contemplation. As a graduate student, most of the time is spent studying and working on projects. Putting off papers and projects till the deadline is what students do. This frees up time. To justify the procrastination, one has to put  effort elsewhere. For me, it was poetry. But since I started working, I’ve had little time to sit and do nothing. I moved closer to work and this cut short my travel time. Traveling alone is a huge catalyst for poetry and creative writing.

Writing is not easy. You cannot show up one day and expect the words to flow. A lot of writers lock themselves up in a room for a few hours every single day. By making it a habit, they improve their writing, and vocabulary over time. Early morning and late nights work well for writing. At least, they work well for me. I can even create similar environments during the rest of the day by playing soothing music in a quiet room. But I haven’t been doing any of that. Because I don’t have enough time. Rather, I haven’t been making sure I have enough time. And hence, the number of poems that I write in a month(good or otherwise) has reduced.

To get better at something, you have to make it a habit, do it every day. There is no easier way. You must allocate some time each day to just sit and write. One great poem usually follows many not- so-great ones. To churn out great work, one needs practice. Practice makes you perfect. If not perfect, it will definitely make you better.

Spending time in quiet contemplation is not just for writers. This time works well for anyone. It is relaxing and refreshing. Our lives are busy and we want to be as productive as possible. Doing nothing is not considered to be productive. But the mind needs this time. It is like a detox, cleansing of your thoughts.

You can incorporate quiet contemplation into your daily routine in many ways. For example, while watching the sun rise or set, sitting in a park, a cafe, or by the window. When done without gadgets it works great for the mind. I know it works for me. It is not easy to sit idly these days, but it is worth it the effort.

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