Free Your Pen

Buddhist Writing Prompt: Don’t Be Frivolous

Don’t be frivolous is about finding the right balance between joy and seriousness, and focusing on the things that really matter to you. The original lojong slogan is the same, and on face value, seems to be telling you to not have any fun. But thankfully, there’s more to it than that.

This slogan is asking you to look more deeply at how you spend your time and the kinds of things you care about. When you’re being frivolous you don’t really let anything touch you deeply. It can feel like fun to skate over the surface of life being silly and having a laugh. But when you live like this all the time it’s hard to make meaningful choices or commit to anything for very long.

This doesn’t mean you have to be serious all the time and never have fun or enjoy yourself. It’s just that real joy and happiness come from a deeper place than frivolity. You can tell when joyful behaviour isn’t genuine because it has an edge, a manic determination, as if you’re forcing yourself to have as much fun as possible, whatever the cost.

Real joy is a spontaneous expression of your true Buddha nature.

Apply this slogan to your writing practice by not wasting time on activities that distract you from your writing, especially things that sap your creativity.

There are so many ways to kill time with frivolous distractions that it has become an industry in itself. Frivolity has been normalised and monetised and turned into a way of life, and this is what makes it dangerous to writers.

If you want to write then you have to actually do some writing, but you also need time to think and find inspiration and percolate ideas. To others it looks like writers are wasting time doing not much of anything – sitting about reading novels, daydreaming, relaxing, watching movies, staring out of the window and letting your imagination run wild. But this is productive idleness, and you can’t be creative without it.

Productive idleness is having fun mindfully with the intention of enriching your creative work. So when you have fun, be present with your experience. Don’t beat yourself up with guilt thinking you should be working or doing something more important.

Inspiration is important. It fuels your imagination and without it, you won’t write a word.

Your writing prompt this weekend: In your slogan journal, list the frivolous distractions you could live without.

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

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