Free Your Pen

Buddhist Writing Prompt: Don’t Make Gods into Demons

Don’t Make Gods into Demons is about not using spiritual teachings and practices to feed your ego. The original lojong slogan is the same and it means don’t take something good and turn it into something bad. Don’t take the best things in your life and turn them into the worst by abusing them or taking them for granted.

Spiritual practice is about transformation and that isn’t always easy or comfortable. The danger is that you stop challenging yourself to change and settle into a practice that allows you to hide from your problems. Perhaps you quit as soon as something difficult comes up, or stay in the shallows where it feels good.

But meditation is designed to break you out of the ego cage in your mind. You’re not supposed to use the teachings and practices to build a more comfortable cage so you can hide from things in life that you don’t like because they hurt.

True spiritual practice is about self-acceptance and making peace with yourself and the world. Just do your best and don’t worry when you have a bad day. Notice where you’ve gone wrong and then let it go.

Apply this slogan to your writing practice by looking at how you feel about your favourite authors. There’s nothing wrong with admiring the work of others, but too much hero worship can become a problem.

When you worship another writer’s work, you put them on a pedestal. They become an untouchable genius. How could you ever hope to write that well? You might even convince yourself to give up writing altogether, since it’s such an impossible dream.

But this has no basis in reality. You have no idea how much work has gone into an apparently perfect book. Nobody has ever written a perfect first draft. Not even the best writers can pull that off. Not even the genius ones.

So don’t turn your writing gods into demons of self-doubt. If your first effort at writing a novel is a bit lacklustre, you can rewrite it. You can rewrite it as many times as it takes, and there are no rules on how long that is. (It’s generally as long as a piece of string.)

So do your best. Let go of your mistakes. And keep writing.

Your writing prompt this weekend: Pick your top three favourite authors and write about why you admire their work. What can you learn from them?

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

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