Questions for the Author

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

No and Yes.

I’m not a particularly spiritual person so my gut reaction to this question is to say, “No.” This rejection of spirituality is probably down to my personal insecurities where I’m shallow enough to equate spirituality with intellectual weakness. I believe it would be comforting to have faith in something beyond myself, such as the karmic rules of the universe, or the beneficence of a God. But I can’t bring myself to believe in anything other than the physical and the tangible. And sometimes I have doubts about those things.

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However, I remember talking about meditation to a friend who has studied extensively under yogis and gurus. I explained that I had attempted meditation but had never been able to achieve a state of tranquillity because the inside of my head refuses to sit in silence whilst I try to diligently focus on nothing and empty my mind.  I expected her to tell me that such inabilities are common (“Don’t worry, that happens to all guys at some time”) but, instead, she told me that when I’m writing, I enter a meditative state.

This is an attitude that embraces the notion of creativity and flow as postulated by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Csikszentmihalyi said many astute things on the subject of creativity and he defined flow as “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”

I think this sums up the state of mind I experience whilst writing, particularly during the production of first drafts. The story takes on an importance beyond words on the page. Reality remains constant but it’s a distraction and not quite as real as the world I’m describing on the page. As I said at the start of this page, I’m not particularly spiritual but I do think this slightly altered state of mind can be seen as something that is akin to spirituality.

So, whilst I’m not a particularly spiritual person, and I don’t have any spiritual beliefs, I have to accept that writing, like all forms of creative expression, is a spiritual experience.

Remember: if you have a question for Ashley Lister, you can email him direct on: me@ashleylister.co.uk.

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