Sunday, August 01, 2010


It happened unexpectedly.

Schedules were squeezed, time was running short; it was a week of unfamiliar rhythms–my daughter was starting camp, my wife was going to her doctor for a minor procedure–and, suddenly, I found myself thrashing in the water, lost.

Without confidence or direction.

No longer sure what to write or focus on.

No beginning, no end, just endless water, and no land in sight.

And the more I thrashed about in a futile effort to find my way, the less I could see.

I felt panicky, anxious, and I couldn’t swim past the anxiety. (Bhuddists refer to this anxiety, this state of being restless, confused, unsettled, and unable to focus as monkey mind.)

I couldn’t see the paper, couldn’t see the words to put on the paper, couldn’t see thoughts or feelings or anything except for the frustration that I felt churning inside.

It felt as if the words had come unglued... no, as if I had come unglued.

Thankfully, the panic subsided, but only later that night after everyone was asleep. That’s when I realized what had started the thrashing.

I had too many choices, too many projects that I was juggling in the air, and I was confused about which project to tackle next.

I couldn’t work on all of them.

I needed to choose one, possibly two.

But to choose the project, I needed to learn how I felt about each of them. Did I feel the need to explore it further? Or could I back away and leave it alone, letting it simmer a little longer until later in the year?

Once I figured out which project I needed to explore, I could stop thrashing and figure out how to approach the subject, how to swim into this new stream and let the current pull me where I needed to go.

Have you ever found yourself thrashing in frustration and confusion because you've had too many (or too few) projects to choose from?

How did you learn to stop thrashing? And what was it that enabled you to stop, to settle your monkey mind?

Let us know when you get a chance.

For more to read about having too many choices, visit:

For more on monkey mind, visit:

1 comment:

Susan Woodring said...

I love the concept of "monkey mind," and I know exactly what you mean. I remember years ago, Kathryn Rhett, one of the instructors at the MFA program I attended, said she just always writes what she feels like writing. "You have to go with where the energy is." This advice has bode me well, for the most part, but then, what happens when the writing energy is going in a dozen directions at once? Or even just two directions?

It occurs to me that this is kind of the opposite of writer's block. Given the choice, I think I'd rather have monkey mind???