Free Your Pen

Buddhist Writing Prompt: Don’t Be Sneaky

Don’t Be Sneaky is about being honest with yourself about your real motives and not doing things just to get something out of it for yourself.

The original lojong slogan is: Don’t act with a twist. When you act with a twist you have an ulterior motive. The ego does this because it feels insecure so is always looking for ways to appear better, stronger, happier, and so on. Your ego wants everyone to see you a certain way and will do whatever it can to achieve that.

So this slogan tells you not to lie to yourself, or others, about what you’re really doing and feeling. If you’re being selfish, be honest about it. Don’t deceive yourself about your motives. Don’t sneak around and use others so you can feel better about yourself.

This kind of manipulative behaviour can be quite subtle and you might not realise you’re doing it. Even spiritual practices like meditation can be twisted into serving the ego’s agenda. Being nice so that others will like you is manipulative and dishonest, and it doesn’t fool anyone.

Your ulterior motives will backfire eventually, so you may as well be honest.

Apply this slogan to your writing practice when you’re tempted to become a marketeer. Nobody wants to spend all their time interacting with people who are relentlessly trying to sell them things. As a writer, it can be hard to work out how to spread the word about your writing without falling into this trap.

You will need to be honest with yourself about your motives and think about why you’re writing in the first place. Are you a writer or a bookseller?

When you share your work, see it as an outpouring of your creativity and ideas, not as an opportunity to make a quick buck. You can’t control how others respond to your work and trying to manipulate them into responding the way you want will backfire. You can share your writing whether people respond or not, whether they buy your books or not.

Your priority is to write the best book you can write. So remember: you’re a writer first and a bookseller second.

Your writing prompt this weekend: In your slogan journal, write about how you feel about selling your writing. How does it make you feel? How do you feel when others try to sell things to you?

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

5 thoughts on “Buddhist Writing Prompt: Don’t Be Sneaky

  1. I scour my world in search of people who are mindful and self aware, but my attempts yield little if any reward. It is so sad that there are so few with courage enough to do battle with the sneaky little devil ego and win the good fight. Maybe my world is just a little too small. It is a pleasure find another who speaks my language and does it so well. Thanks. I’ll be following you and looking forward to reading more.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi,

    Thank you for reading my e-mails. I wrote a postscript to it explaining something of my experiences and that I haven’t been through a proper Dark Knight of the Soul experience. Thanks for your article. I’m looking for guidance around what to do if I do descend into the abyss so this is really helpful. I guess it’s inevitable if I keep practicing.

    Can you please delete my comments though if you think it’s unhelpful advice? It started with an urge to help someone in need and then u-turned into fear of causing someone pain. I looked but didn’t see if I could delete the comment myself.

    Kind regards,




    1. Hi James – don’t worry about whether or not your comments will be helpful. Some of it might make sense to somebody and get through to them in a way that nothing else does – you never know! I’ll add a comment underneath to clarify…


  3. Hi Jessica,

    I wrote a comment beneath a comment by a woman called Melissa on your article “How To Survive a Dark Knight of The Soul” (

    Can you delete it please? I don’t think I’ve had a Dark Knight of the Soul experience of the order that she has gone, or is going, through so I believe my advice could be unhelpful.

    Kind regards,





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