writer’s block

July 11th, 2013

icebergThis old teaching is like a tall, cool drink to this blogger, increasingly reluctant to use daily life and family as a writing prompt:

The first thing to be remembered in character-building is to understand the secret and character of human nature. We must know that every person in the world has his own object in life, his own interest and his point of view, and that he is concerned with himself. His peace is disturbed when you wish to interest him in your object of interest. If you wish to force upon him your point of view, however near and dear he may be to you, he is not pleased with it. Very few consider this; and they wish to pour out their own troubles and difficulties upon someone near to them, thinking, “Everyone has the same interest in my subject as I myself and everyone has the same point of view as myself; so everyone will be glad to hear my tale.”

There is a story told that a person began to speak before a new acquaintance about his ancestors. He continued so long that the patience of his hearer was thoroughly exhausted. In the end the acquaintance interrupted the story by asking, “If I do not care to know about my own ancestors, what do I care to know about yours?”

There are many who are very keen to let their neighbors know about every cold and cough they may have; every little gain or loss, however small, they would be glad to announce with drums and bugles. This is a childish quality; this tendency shows a child soul. Sometimes it frightens away friends and helps the foes. People who work noisily accomplish little, for they attract by their noise ten more people who come and interfere and spoil the work which one person could easily have finished.

Noisiness comes from restlessness, and restlessness is the sign of Tammas, the destructive rhythm. Those who have made any success in life, in whatever direction, have done so by their quiet working. In business, in industry, in art, in science, in education, in politics, in all directions of life, a wise worker is the quiet worker. He tells about things when the time comes, not before. The one who talks about things before he has accomplished them is like a cook who is announcing dishes before they are cooked, to the whole neighborhood.

Hazrat Inayat Kahn
Founder, Sufi Order of the West

Courtesy of Naader Shagagi, my dear yoga teacher



  1. Such a relevant teaching, in this age of facebook, twitter and blogging. It reminds me to pay attention before I write or speak. I’ll have to strive for being heartfelt and vulnerable, without going on and on about “my ancestors.”

    Comment by Dawn Downey — July 12, 2013 @ 3:02 am

  2. “increasingly reluctant to use daily life and family as a writing prompt:”

    It becomes less burdensome without the need for improvement or so-called teaching.

    Nuthin’ wrong with a tall tale or two.

    Tell your tale, wash the dishes, weed the garden … like that.

    Comment by adam fisher — July 12, 2013 @ 5:50 am

  3. Maezen, You were in my mind! I’ve felt this reluctance all summer, for months actually. A hurtful letter this week made me question my motives even more deeply. Why write at all? To what end? For whom? I’m not exactly sure, and yet I also know this: my daily life is the only writing prompt I have. Glad to know I’m not the only one pondering. Certainly have felt both the relief of silence and the impulse to wrestle experience into words. I, however, am also always interested in learning more about your ancestors.

    Comment by Katrina Kenison — July 12, 2013 @ 8:06 am

  4. This reminds me of a dear friend. When we worked together she was always quiet, ‘keeping her peace’ as my father used to call it. Others around us thought she had nothing to say, was bland and too quiet. I discovered that she has a kind heart and is a thoughtful person, who’s contribution to all things was enormous, though silently accomplished and for no praise.
    She was a peace maker.

    Comment by Jude Smith — July 12, 2013 @ 8:17 am

  5. Thank you Katrina. We have been riding the same wave for some time. The thing is, my ancestors were quiet.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — July 12, 2013 @ 9:16 am

  6. “the relief of silence and the impulse to wrestle experience into words” — Katrina, that’s it exactly, where I’m sitting.

    Comment by Jena — July 13, 2013 @ 5:57 pm

  7. I also am moved by your words, Katrina–and Maezen–I am always so admiring of the book RETURNING TO SILENCE by Katagiri Roshi. That we can work in our zazen (and our daily life) to return to silence.
    Then, come from that silence to “wrestle experience into words”. Said just right.

    Comment by daniel — July 16, 2013 @ 4:10 pm

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