This is an excerpt from Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition
Lesson #4: From your chi flows your creativity
Chi (also qi and ki) is the life force that permeates the universe. You can think of this as your inner energy or enthusiasm, if that suits your mindset better. Martial artists learn to tap into this energy in order to focus their efforts and reach the goals they want to achieve. The kiai or kihop, the shout that martial artists use as they strike is a physical summoning of the chi. It helps the martial artist concentrate on what needs to be done (striking the opponent, breaking the board, surviving the promotion test.)
A martial artist learns that she can do anything if she taps into and summons her chi. But you have a limited amount of chi at any given time. If you constantly draw on your chi without renewing it, you can feel depleted and even burned out.
For a writer, chi is the source of creativity. If you spend all your time working a day job and then expect to come home at night and work on your writing, you may find your creative energies are low and you can’t think of anything to write. Sometimes a schedule change can make all the difference. Instead of trying to write after a ten-hour day at the office, set aside time on the weekends and protect that time. Or take an hour or two in the morning for your creative work.
The amount of chi or life energy you have to spend in any given day is limited. Many writers are faced with many competing demands: you have to work, and raise your kids, and provide brownies for the school fundraiser while trying to carve out some time to write. Instead of feeling calm and balanced, you may feel overwhelmed and empty. You use up your life energy on everything but writing. Often, the stress makes you feel frustrated, discontented, and even angry—and those emotions make it even more difficult to write.
Creativity feeds on chi, which requires, rest, balance, and peace.
Cultivate your creative energy. Remember that like any energy, it needs fuel and rest to recharge. Create an environment where you can recharge your chi. Set aside space and time to reflect and to renew yourself. Empty, unscheduled time can help you feel less rushed and can give your chi a chance to rejuvenate.
Gain control over that stressed-out feeling. Give up all of those crazy expectations you have for yourself and your life and focus only on those expectations that matter most to you. A long time ago, I gave up having the spotless house that I used to feel was very important. I try to wash the dishes before any mold actually grows on them, but if the carpet doesn’t get vacuumed this week, it doesn’t matter to me. You can give up some of the crazy-making things you do in order to have more chi for your writing.
Guard your writing energy by making writing a priority in your life. Develop a ritual you can use to re-energize. Maybe it’s a cup of soothing tea before you sit at your desk, or a few minutes in the tub, soaking the cares of the day away. Give your creative energy nourishment.