Monday Morning Greetings 2022 #26 – The Process of Writing and Other Thoughts

June 27th, 2022

I got positive feedback from my last post—that the message was succinct and profound. It is always edifying to be encouraged. “Die to Live” was a simple offering of 500 words, but simple it was not. Finishing it was excruciating. I almost gave up many times. My “pen” finally rested Sunday night.


There is no rest for the wicked[1]. Today I began again to write the next post, but what to write? I had no idea. I chanted and prayed. An inspiration came: You struggled last week, so why not share your process of writing?




Writing begins with an inspiration. Without having some realization to write about, the “pen” can’t move forward. A realization is a vision of truth, a conception that is not just understood, but an epiphany—something that is seen. My faith is that wisdom texts and spiritual practice gives one the lens to get those glimpses of realization, those visions of truth. I believe that most of us have more of those “epiphanies” than we realize. They are often fleeting and gone before we even realize that we have them. A commitment to writing keeps us ready for them so that when they flash by, they can be noted and recalled, just like dreams are usually only remembered when we make the conviction to write them down upon waking. Realizations may not come often, but I seem to get at least one per week to write about. When I do get one, I start the “pen” moving, or I jot down those writing realizations for the future. The test of a realization is the ability to communicate it. If the realization is deep enough, the whole article is sometimes practically seen before I write it and does not take long, but when the realization is not deep, like last week, only the demand of writing that realization will force me to understand the point clear enough to be able to communicate it effectively, and that sometimes takes time.




To have an inspiration is one thing. To be able to mold or communicate your inspiration in a literary form so that your audience can appreciate or even experience what you have realized is another thing. Often, when starting, the task seems daunting. It is easy at that time, or at any other point in the writing journey, to give up. One needs faith to move forward.


The first conviction that pushes me forward is just the simple realization that if I never start, I will never finish. The saying I quoted from my post two weeks ago on Chinese proverbs must be firmly internalized by every writer in this regard:


Don’t believe you will ever reach the destination without leaving the shore.


Leaving the shore in writing means writing even one sentence. That exercise alone activates the mind in amazing ways, and a lot of the quandaries in conceptualizing and expressing your point will then go on in the mind off page and even subliminally.


My faith that my initial inspiration will manifest into the proper expression of it is further fortified by my experience. What’s my experience? I have been writing one article a week for six and a half years. Often, even usually, when I begin the task to mold my inspiration into something of substance, I can’t imagine succeeding, but my “trust by experience”—my favorite definition of faith—is that when I commit to a certain number of hours of writing by the end of the week, the result inevitably comes by Krishna’s grace.


And that is another important factor in giving me the confidence that I can complete a post of quality every week—my faith in Krishna, or God. If one is given a service for Krishna, the empowerment to execute it no doubt comes with it. I see no other reason why I have been able to write articles that have maintained the interest of my audience for so long, as I was never a writer growing up, or in the first twenty-five years of my service in ISKCON. So, in that sense, I do not feel it is me writing. I just do my service and leave the result to Krishna. The focus on service, rather than result, inspires me to write without fear or angst and is an important element in my process of writing.




Now, on to the technical process of my writing. Over thirty years ago I took a course in the VIHE[2] on clear thinking and strong speaking given by Śrīla Prabhupāda’s personal editor, Jayadvaita Swami. The course also discussed good writing. What I took away from the course more than anything else is that good speaking and writing must have a focus—one idea or theme that unifies every paragraph and page. I loved the “so what” exercise, where you go through every paragraph of writing and ask that question. If you can’t answer it affirmatively by connecting the paragraph you have written to your theme and the flow of your article, you either must hone that paragraph so it does, or delete the paragraph as irrelevant.


This is how I specifically apply that process. My theme is my inspiration or realization. I continue writing as long as I feel my theme is focused and logically progressing from the previous paragraph. When I get stuck and I just can’t figure out how to proceed, I have the luxury of going back to the very beginning of my article to hone my writing from the very first sentence, as my posts are rarely more than a thousand words. As what I have written so far has been relatively focused, going over the article again really sharpens my realization of the theme and refines my logical expression of it. When I then get to the part where I am stuck, I usually have a much better idea where I should be proceeding to keep it focused. It may take deep thought to figure that out, but at least I now know what I must do to keep it focused. If it is still difficult to proceed, I will go back to the beginning and start again, even rereading the piece several times to help overcome that one place where I am stuck. Sometimes by doing so I realize that I have not understood my focus or theme clearly enough and must rewrite several paragraphs. So, if you appreciate that my articles are succinct and focused, then the wisdom of the French philosopher Pascal is relevant: “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” In other words, I take the time to write it. Ironically, this week my article is a bit long. Due to extenuating circumstances, I didn’t have the time I wanted to write it. And there is still more.


It is Sunday morning, I have about a half hour to finish this because I still must chant more, prepare for my Sunday class, give the class, and then leave for a program and head Upstate. Before sitting down to write, I took a bit of a power walk and chanted for a half hour, as I usually do upon rising. I was trying to concentrate on the mantra, but some thought came about the first verse in the Tenth Canto, which I am teaching now. It was an epiphany, as I have never read what I saw before in that first verse. It is also the inspiration or realization I needed for my next Monday Morning Greeting.


What I found especially edifying about this realization was the fact of having that realization alone was the perfect way, in my opinion, to accomplish the last two things I needed to finish this post before getting it to my editor in about a half an hour–to discuss the importance of a good ending that summarizes the theme and to have a good ending.


A good ending highlights your theme and brings you full circle back to the introduction of your article, which hopefully had outlined your theme in an interesting way. My theme was about my process of writing, which centers on elucidating clearly a realization or inspiration. My article began by discussing the interesting way I gained the realization to write this post, so it is quite apropos to end with the interesting way I got the inspiration to write the next one, which highlights my theme—the process of writing that focuses on an inspiration to be communicated. That the inspiration for writing in both cases came so suddenly also highlights to me the most important part of a Vaiṣṇava’s process of writing, and certainly mine, and how this whole article, and every article I write, begins:


“I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me comes remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness.” (Bg. 15.15)



[1] This saying originates from a Biblical verse (Isaiah 48:22). In the modern context it is used as a simple way to say one is always busy.

[2] Vrindavan Institute for Higher Education


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