The 1st Noble Truth…and Writing

“All is suffering.”

Yesterday I was reading through my Twitter timeline and noticed an alarming number of writers talking about their struggles and disappointments. Letters of rejection, complete silence from publishers, agents, editors, and beta-readers—these are just a few of the sources of frustration that writers deal with on a daily basis.

Reading through all of that, hearing the stories of people who wonder if all of the effort is worth it, made me think of one of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism.

All is suffering.

That’s it. That’s the First Noble Truth. Dukkha. All is suffering.

When you first read that statement, it doesn’t seem to help. It sounds pretty depressing. But understanding the truth of the statement helps.

This truth does not mean that “happiness” does not exist or that it is unattainable. It is, rather, a statement that expresses a relationship between our desire to be happy and our ingrained dislike of suffering. The point here is to understand the relationship between the two.

If we, as writers, desire to be happy and fulfilled 24-7-365, we are creating conditions where we can easily be disappointed and be subjected to suffering.

Think about it.

If you want something (a good review, an acceptance letter, a contract), you might be creating a situation where you have anchored your happiness to one possible outcome—the attainment of your desire. This creates a dizzying array of other outcomes where you can be disappointed and, as a result, suffer.

Am I saying not to want those things? No. I am not. I’m saying that those things—people reacting positively to your writing—are outside of your control. In effect, desiring things you have no control over lets others dictate your happiness.

Tie your happiness to the things you can control and you can control how much you suffer as a writer.

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