On Zentangle and how it is helping my writing.

Zentangle supplies, and a library book on the subject.

Last week I suffered from a bit of writing malaise. Resistance. Writer's block. A strong case of self doubt and insecurity. Or maybe it was good old fashioned laziness. Whatever the case, my writing went from slow and sporadic to non-existent by the end of last week.

But then on Friday I had the opportunity to teach some friends about Zentangle at our Body & Soul gathering. I may have mentioned this gathering in passing here before. It's a class, of sorts, which we rotate leading, that involves some form of movement followed by some form of meditation. It's one of my favorite parts of the week. My friend Cristina started it, and she blogs about it sometimes, including about last Friday's gathering (in a lovely post, which I highly recommend you click over to read), which happened to be our 2 year anniversary.

Anyway, Zentangle is a simple practice of making doodle-like marks on a square of art paper, without any plan or expectations. It's very meditative and focusing. You just make marks -- shapes, lines, dots, curves -- and discover it as it comes together. I introduced the group to it on Friday, and we zentangled together. It was quite lovely.

My favorite quote from her blog post about the experience is this one:
I think both the zentangles and our weekly sitting are pointing at something about creativity.  Both practices suggest that holding a specific kind of space (a simple paper square, or an hour in the week) and showing up with open willingness results in something. 
This so perfectly applies to writing, and I so needed the reminder. I need to be disciplined about creating space -- a regular time in my day -- and just show up with an open willingness. Writing is bound to occur.

On Sunday, I was chatting with this same friend about our goals for the week. I was fretting about whether I'd succeed at overcoming resistance and get some writing done. She advised, "do it zentangle-style." Yes, that's it.

And so, on Monday morning, I sat down with my work, and started making marks. I added few sentences here, then a few more there. Scrolling down, I noticed a spot that needed some revision, so I reworked a few things. Then I poked through my outline and added some specificity in my plan for an upcoming scene that I haven't written yet. Then I went back in and added a bit more description in a scene that seemed a little too dry. And then I put my writing away and moved on to other parts of my day. But I felt peaceful and satisfied. I'd entered my story world and stayed there for a bit. I made progress. Not much, but I moved things forward. If I were to do this every single day, it would result in something. As it says in the tagline on the official Zentangle blog, "Anything is possible, one stroke at a time." One stroke of the keyboard, in my case.

And so I used the same approach on Tuesday. No expectations, no pressure on myself. I just went into my story, poked around, and did a few things that needed doing. I did it again on Wednesday. 

Here we are at Thursday, and I'm still going. Well, actually, I'm writing this blog post instead this morning, so I think I'll end it here and go visit my story world. To start making marks. Zentangle style. 


  1. Two thoughts - First, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
    Second, when I have a huge and multifaceted task that seems to big to handle I just pick at it till, suddenly, it is quite manageable. Little did I know that is Zentangle style.

  2. Like your library instagram post, sort of. Just plunge on in.