If you have the right intention while writing, you will never fail.
Intention shifts the focus of your writing from where you are headed—your goals and dreams—to how are you “being” in the present moment. This not only helps you write better by freeing you from distractions of the future (or past), but also keeps you from “wasting” your time.
If you have ever done yoga or meditation, you might be familiar with the phrase, “set your intention.” If not, then you might wonder exactly what is an intention, and how do I set it? Also, how will this help me to write better?
What Is an Intention? How Can It Help Me Write Better?
For many people, the word “intention” carries a subtle connotation of being related to actions that you will never complete—aka New Year’s resolutions. “I intend to write a short story a week,” you say, knowing full well that you’ll be lucky to write three this year.
Intention is also often confused with goal or desire, as in: “my intention for this year is to make more more money from my writing” (or “finish the novel I started when I was in college” or “write better”). This interpretation is often used by proponents of the Law of Attraction. But intention is not a spiritual flypaper that you set out to snare more “stuff” for your life.
Intention is more like a pair of sunglasses that enables you to see the world in a specific way. That might mean using polarizing glasses to see more clearly by stripping away the “noise” in your life. Or rose-colored glasses to tint your experience with warmth and vitality. Or super-magnifying glasses to allow you to peer into the depths of the world around you.
Write Better By Letting Go of the End Result
The most important aspect of intention is that it helps you let go of the end result. We all have goals in life. We want things for ourselves, our family, and the world. Goals are important because they give us an idea of where we want to go.
When we reach our goals—such as getting our novel published—we are happy. But what happens if your novel is rejected by thirty-seven publishers, including fifteen that published several novels written by celebrity animals? Does that mean you just wasted ten years of your life because no one wants to read your novel in print?
It all depends on how you spent those ten years of writing. If you were fixated the entire time on having your novel published, you were probably not focused on writing. This is just as true whether your novel is published or rejected. Whenever you don’t pay attention to what you are doing here and now, you are basically throwing away precious moments of your life.
Intention Shapes Your Actions to Help You Write Better
When you set your intention, however, you experience the present moment more fully—no matter what happens in the end.
In Buddhism, Step 2 of the Eightfold Path is Right Intention.
1. Right View
2. Right Intention
3. Right Speech
4. Right Action
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration
While the steps don’t have to be done a particular order, it’s no coincidence that intention comes before action on the list. Intention sets the stage for your actions. Buddhists describe intention as a mental energy that controls your actions. Again, it’s like special sunglasses that shape “how” you do things, such as “write better.”
In yoga and meditation classes, setting your intention often involves dealing with emotions, such as anger or anxiety. These come up while you are sitting on a meditation cushion or a yoga mat—when you are surrounded by silence and stuck inside your own mind (an experience very similar to writing). These are also things that you need to deal with if you want to move forward.
Using Intention to Write Better
It’s the same way with writing. If you come to your writing desk angry because you don’t have enough time to write, or anxious that you will die before anyone publishes your novel, your writing will be affected. Emotions, like intention, can shape your actions. Unfortunately, emotions often control our actions without our consent—they force us to put on glasses that don’t suit us.
When you use intention to write better, you make a conscious effort to deal with some of your emotional and mental baggage up front. This is the stuff that prevents you from being fully present while you write.
There are many ways to write better by setting your intention, such as:
- Letting go of anger about not having enough time to write
- Bringing a positive attitude into your writing
- Keeping your mind focused on your writing
- Letting go of distracting thoughts
- Rediscovering the creative spark that you felt when you wrote as a child.
The best part of writing with intention is that there are no wasted moments. You could sit at your desk for three hours and write only one paragraph; but if you were true to your intention, it would be three thoroughly productive hours.
Intention turns every moment into its own practice. Over time, you may notice that when you sit down at your desk, you automatically write better—not necessarily more, but always better.