This interview was featured on the writing website She Writes but I wanted to share it with Drinking to Distraction readers as well. Look for a post about writing and drinking soon.
In her latest book The Wisdom of a Broken Heart: An Uncommon Guide to Healing, Insight, and Love, Susan Piver speaks from her own experience of heartbreak, sharing wisdom, stories, insights, exercises, and beginning meditation instruction. Here, Susan answers five questions from Jenna Hollenstein in a conversation about writing and meditation.
Jenna: Can you describe your daily writing practice?
Susan: My writing practice is all over the place. Not a day goes by when I don’t try to stick to a schedule. My preferred schedule is to get up very early, make a cup of tea, and write “morning pages.” Then I try to write for a few hours. On good days, this is what happens. I’d say my good days are running at about 40% currently.
Then I spend the rest of the day doing the business behind my writing and teaching. I sometimes find that late in the day (around 9 or 10 at night), I’ll go back to what I was working on in the morning.
When I’m working on a book, at some point I have to sort of sequester myself for a few weeks or longer and just live and breathe the manuscript.
Jenna: What are some similarities between your writing practice and your meditation practice?
Susan: I think they are identical. Both require simultaneous one-pointed focus (meditation: breath…breath…breath; writing: word…word…word) and panoramic awareness, a kind of agenda-less attunement to the environment. In writing, this is how you know what to say next. It just sort of comes to you while paying attention to the silence—thus you are able to detect whatever may arise from it.
Jenna: How has meditation influenced your writing?
Susan: It has made me much, much more comfortable with uncertainty and not knowing—both of which seem to be essential to writing something meaningful, something beyond your comfort zone.
Jenna: How do you deal with writers block and “bad” meditation days?
Susan: I just try again. I seem to have endless energy for trying again. At least, so far.
Jenna: How would you advise writers interested in meditation to begin?
Susan: Definitely learn it from some place connected with a lineage that is older than, say, 2500 years. No new age nonsense. My Shambhala Buddhist lineage is a great place to begin, but so are Zen centers or Vipassana centers. If anyone is interested, beginning on March 5, 2011, I’ll be teaching meditation on my site and also sending out a daily email to offer encouragement and insight into how to bring the mind of meditation into your everyday life. You can find out about it here.
Susan Piver is the New York Times bestselling author of six books, including The Hard Questions: 100 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Say “I Do,” How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life, and her latest, The Wisdom of a Broken Heart: An Uncommon Guide to Healing, Insight, and Love. She is also a frequent contributor to Shambhala Sun, Body+Soul, and The Huffington Post. Susan is a meditation practitioner and has been authorized to teach in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage since 2006. She offers talks and workshops internationally on the topics of love, creativity, meditation, and spirituality. Read more at www.susanpiver.com.
Jenna Hollenstein is a medical writer, blogger, and aspiring memoirist. Read more at www.drinkingtodistraction.com.