Free Your Pen

Buddhist Writing Prompt: Work With Your Biggest Problems First

Work with your biggest problems first is about getting to the heart of whatever holds you back and dealing with that first. Don’t waste time worrying about minor upsets because they’ll heal themselves if you deal with the root of the problem, the thing that never goes away and never seems to get better.

The original lojong slogan is: Work with the greatest defilements first. Defilements seems like a loaded word, full of judgement and condemnation, but it just means anything that gets in the way of you feeling at peace with yourself. So your greatest problems are your bad habits, negative thinking, emotional complexes, hang-ups, fears, doubts, imperfections – anything that stops you being all that you can be and from doing what you need to do.

This slogan encourages you to stop avoiding these problems and tackle them head on. The things you avoid are often camouflage for other problems. They stack inside each other like Russian Dolls, so finding your biggest problem may involve some excavation work. You might have to dig down through layers of excuses before you find the real cause of the problem.

But as you make friends with yourself and treat yourself with kindness in small ways, moment by moment, you’ll slowly erode the hold your biggest problems have on your mind. Then the smaller difficulties fall away of their own accord.

(A perfect slogan for contemplating your New Year resolutions…)

Apply this slogan to your writing practice whenever procrastination stops you from writing. Chronic procrastination is usually caused by a deeper problem hidden beneath layers of excuses and avoidance. This slogan reminds you to dig down to the roots and find true cause of whatever it is that stops you from writing.

This slogan can also be a reminder that your problems are potential goldmines of material for your writing. Whatever you have the most difficulties with, the ideas you’re scared to tackle, those are the things you should be writing about. Don’t avoid the subjects or feelings that bring you out in a cold sweat or give you vertigo whenever you think of them.

Remember that everybody feels these things, everybody struggles with the same problems you face. If you can find a way to write about your problems, many people will be grateful for your insight. Confronting your own problems will deepen your writing and help you to connect in a meaningful way with your readers.

Your writing prompt this weekend: In your slogan journal, make a list of all the ways you procrastinate to avoid writing.

More in the book: Free Your Pen: Mind Training for Writers

2 thoughts on “Buddhist Writing Prompt: Work With Your Biggest Problems First

  1. One of the things I love about Eastern thought is it’s depth of clarity. The definition of defilement as you say has a simple straight to the point meaning. Once understood we can get on with the task at hand.

    Liked by 1 person


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