As you consider a major writing challenge you’re facing, there’s a Zen concept called shoshin or “beginner’s mind,” that can be extremely useful. As one Zen master describes shoshin, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind, there are few.” Beginner’s mind leaves you free to explore, to experiment, and to challenge — and to use your lack of preconceived notions to powerful advantage. How?
It frees you to pursue promising options: Sometimes as we write, we find ourselves on a very narrow track, just slogging along without a lot of snap and crackle to our prose. Bringing a “beginner’s mind” sense of wonder to our work can crack open our story and encourage us to ask “What if” questions that can lead us down unexpected new paths.
It helps you attract resources: Being open and alive to new possibilities is energizing: you’ll bring a zest, energy, and belief to your endeavor that can prove highly motivating and energizing. This sense of optimism and confidence in your venture can also be contagious: It can draw both people and unexpected resources to your creative project at a time when you need them most.
It increases your stick-to-it-iveness: Beginner’s mind helps keep your idea fresh and your mind excited about the possibilities your project offers. Instead of feeling jaded and distressed because you’ve hit a rough patch, it can reignite your enthusiasm about your work and help you recapture some of the initial anticipation and pleasure you brought to the early days of your endeavor. This can give you a huge boost at a time when your energy and commitment may be flagging.
It supports innovative problem-solving: This is the biggest “beginner’s mind” advantage: the
more expansive your mindset, the more open you are to seeing new ways to tackle whatever thorny writing problem you may be grappling with. It can also embolden you to try unusual openings for a story, for example, or to introduce an eccentric secondary character who adds spice and mystery.
So if you’re feeling stuck and uninspired, relax, do some deep breathing, calmly invoke the help of “beginner’s mind,” and see where it leads you as you write on.