Free Your Pen

Buddhist Writing Prompt: Don’t Be Predictable

Don’t Be Predictable is about breaking out of your bad habits so you don’t react automatically in the same way all the time.

The original lojong slogan is more or less the same: Don’t be so predictable. Some of our habits are helpful, but others can become straightjackets. When you do things the same way, day in, day out, you can convince yourself that you know what you’re doing and that life is under your control.

But life isn’t that controllable. Unexpected things happen all the time and you don’t really know what’s going on or what you’re doing. Your daily habits can hide this fact, so this slogan is prodding you to wake up and pay attention. Don’t fall into predictable ways of behaving and thinking.

For example, with mindfulness or an exercise regime, you can get used to doing things the same way every day and it becomes so familiar that you just do it on autopilot. You might start to feel bored and think about giving up because it’s not doing you any good.

You’re feeling like this because you’ve fallen asleep at the wheel. You’re not paying attention to what you’re doing and have fallen into a predictable pattern. When you notice this, mentally take a step back and ask yourself:

“What am I doing?”

Apply this slogan to your writing practice when you feel like you’ve fallen into a rut and your writing has become stale.

Writing is an inherently uncertain process and that can make you feel insecure. The worst thing you can do is hide from this uncertainty by falling back on old habits, turns of phrase or clichés that you’ve used before. This slogan can remind you to pay attention to those times when you’re tempted to repeat yourself or avoid taking a risk on something new.

You’ll never reach a time when you can confidently say that you know what you’re doing. Even when you’ve been writing for a long time, each new piece of writing is a fresh beginning. Professional writers don’t know what they’re doing either.

When you catch yourself getting into a rut with your writing and it’s getting stale, do something different. Whatever you do, don’t be predictable.

Your writing prompt this weekend: Go for a walk in a neighbourhood you know well but really pay attention to your surroundings. See how many unusual or unexpected things you can find.

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


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