The Tao of Writing – A Way of Life

posted in: Writing | 12

What Is The Tao?

In its most basic definition, The Tao is natural law, or how things happen. It can also be described as a way of life, or how to live in conscious harmony with the natural law. With this description in mind, I wanted to explore The Tao further as to how it could be applied to the art of writing with its similar characteristics of flow, simplicity, creation, and discovery, hence the title, The Tao of Writing.

the tao of writing

Stop The Perfection and Just Write

Quite opposite to The Tao would be any kind of restriction, whether that show itself as our own self-inflicted boundaries of expression (what we will not say), old programs from school on how writing must be approached and executed – with rules, structure, grammar, proper sentences, and punctuation etc. – or, perhaps the most restrictive of all, our inner demons of fear, perfection, and self-doubt. I know in my own experience, I do battle with all of these demons, until I begin with that first, single word and start writing. Just like the wind blowing through a pinwheel, something begins to move and the words begin to flow.

Writing Requires The Gift of Spaciousness

I love these two riddles from The Tao that speak of the importance of having empty space in our lives.

Hollowed out, clay makes a pot.
Where the pot’s not is where it is useful.

Cut doors and windows make a room.
where the room isn’t, there’s room for you.

Writing requires spaciousness in order for ideas to percolate, breathe, and expand into its fullest creative potential. If we are living a life jam-packed with stuff, endless doing, and non-stop thinking, that doesn’t give us much space to simply sit back, enjoy a coffee, go for a walk, breathe deeply, feel the sensation of the sun on our face, contemplate life, or simply relax.

Writing Is Birthed in the Act of Writing

Writing is an immense, redeeming force that can free us from the shackles that lock us so painfully in place at times, but it can never set us free if we don’t actually sit ourselves down and begin the act of writing. Just as the famous line from The Tao states, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”  or as it applies to writing, “the journey of writing a book (article, blog, letter) begins with a single word.” When we release that first, single word we often set in motion a flood of creativity, the very life force of Existence itself that was just waiting for us to take one, small action causing a wave of fresh, new creative energy to wash through us.

Writing Is Not Separate from the Rest of Existence

I’ve always felt that writing, like The Tao, was about flow, and if that is the case, then how can this flow, or creative process, be something that is separate from the rest of the Universe? Many writers tend to separate their work from the very root and guts of Existence, following the ‘rules of writing’ rather than the natural laws of the ever present Is-ness.

the tao of writing

The Zone of ‘Is-ness’

The following quote is such a great example of what ‘being in the flow’ is like and how it works. I like to use the word ‘Is-ness’ while the author uses the word ‘thusness.’ The quote is referring to the art of painting, though the same principle applies to any act of artistic expression. The author was speaking of how she was able to begin painting again after a long spell of creative drought.

“There was also another reason why it was now possible to paint. It was because there was one central fact that made it seem worthwhile going on, whatever the objective value of the pictures to other people.  It was that I had discovered in the painting a bit of experience that made all other occupations unimportant by comparison.  It was the discovery that, when painting, something from nature occurred, at least sometimes, a fusion into never-before-known wholeness; not only were the object and oneself no longer felt to be separate, but neither were thought and sensation and feeling and action towards it, the movement of one’s hand together with the feeling of delight in the ‘thusness’ of the thing, they all seemed fused into a wholeness of being which was different than anything else that had ever happened to me.”  -Marion Milner, On Not Being Able To Paint

Transcendence & The Tao of Writing

This state of ‘thusness’ or ‘Is-ness’ can often be felt as transcendence, a state whereby we have left the rational, intellectual, calculating, and analyzing mind behind and are quite literally free falling into a state of grace as something flows effortlessly through us and onto the page. This can be likened to what The Tao refers to as the Un-Nameable state, suggesting that the moment we try and name or describe it, it becomes separated from itself. The Tao, or the Un-Nameable is unity – borderless, boundless, and eternal and when we can write from that placeless place, we have found the gold.

With Practice Comes Depth

The more we practice the art of writing, the more we actually learn to love the act of writing itself and come to realize that writing is not something geared only to experts and brainy intellectuals. We see that the more comfortable we become with the natural flow of writing, the more we are able to tap into and express the deep wellspring of feeling within us all.  If we attempt to force our writing, (stop the flow) it’s pretty much guaranteed that we will end up with material bordering on a barren wasteland of empty words and meaningless, shallow content.

The Tao of Writing Blesses Everyone

In conclusion, The Tao is in everything and is that which creates and nourishes us. It also blesses everything to follow nature’s way and diminishes no one and nothing as a result. When we take this principle and apply it to our writing process, it becomes abundantly clear as to the benefit and ripple effect this kind of writing can have on others, as it has been birthed from the very center of All That Is.

How Can I Help You?

I love to hear from you with your comments or questions. If you have any, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section below and I will respond ASAP.

Wishing you much love and happy writing,


12 Responses

  1. William

    Hi Heather,

    I seem to feel better writing once I start. I first start with my topic and I begin to write. When I’m done I sometimes have to reread it and fix a few things but I just write my thoughts first without thinking of the way it comes across.

    The Tao of Writing is something I’ve never heard of, but when you think about it, maybe that’s what I do.

    • Heather

      Hi William,

      Many thanks for your comment.

      Any time we begin to write and do so without restricting or analyzing each word before we choose it, we can say we are writing freely…pretty much just laying it all out as it comes and then editing afterwards. Sounds like you are already doing this, so bravo to you!

      As long as there is no feeling of forcing the words and that you can say they simply flowed with ease and simplicity, then I’d say you were in the flow of the Tao of Writing!

      Bet it feels good to know that you were already doing it quite naturally…


      Heather 🙂

  2. JP

    Wow I absolutely loved this article. So many bits of wisdom in here. I especially liked the truth that we shouldn’t wait to feel like writing to get started. What we must do is just start, and ideas and phrases are going to come to us as we take part in the creative experience that is writing. Keep up the good work!

    • Heather

      Thanks, JP for your comment. I know if I waited until I ‘felt’ like writing, I’d never write!

      It’s a strange love/hate relationship we writers sometimes have with writing. I certainly don’t like having to start writing, but I do love having written…does that make sense to you?

      Many thanks for stopping by.


      Heather 🙂

  3. Gary

    Hi Heather,

    What a breathtakingly fresh look on writing this is for me! I was fully immersed in this article from start to finish and it certainly gave me a lot to think about. As a writer myself, and in fact in the process of creating my first book for publication by the end of the year, I will take something quite remarkable away with me from this.

    Keep posting please.

    Kindest regards,


    • Heather

      Hi Gary,

      I’m so glad that you enjoyed this article on The Tao of Writing.

      It was interesting for me to explore The Tao in relation to writing as I felt there were so many similarities in terms of flow, yielding, natural, open, creative, etc…

      I know that in both life and in writing, when we attempt to overrule this natural law, the Tao, or control it, things just become stagnant, empty, lifeless, and stale. Interesting comparison isn’t it?

      I would love to hear more about your book, Gary, if you’re open to sharing what your project is all about.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and thank you kindly for your comments.


      Heather 🙂

  4. Jonathan

    Hello Heather,

    Awesome blog! I really enjoyed it! I never knew I loved to write until I started my own online business and got introduced to blogging. At first it was a little difficult, as you said. I was concerned with the paragraph format, grammar, and vocabulary. As time went on I sort of just let go and now I can feel the words just spill out. It’s amazing how if you let go of all these restraints what your mind will do. I love to sit down and write about a topic; and spill about 1000 words within a half hour. It’s amazing!

    • Heather

      Hi Jonathan,

      What a great example of The Tao of Writing! So happy to hear that you figured out how to let go of all the mind games we play with ourselves and just moved on to letting the words spill out. And 1000 words in half an hour! Wow! Wish I could do that…:-)

      Many thanks for stopping by.


      Heather 🙂

  5. Alisa

    Hello Heather,

    It is amazingly simple. Rule number one is to forget about all the rules and start writing. A lot of times I find myself thinking too much, which simply blocks my creativity. Once I just go with the flow it all seems to work just fine.

    I loved this article. Good reading!

    • Heather

      Hi Alisa,

      Your rule number one is exactly right!

      Thinking too much is a writer’s worst nightmare. (Unless of course, it’s a more technical piece of writing, then thinking is very much part of the process).

      Better to feel from within, and then go with the flow as you say. Don’t you wish we could eliminate that feeling of anguish that always seems to accompany the first step of putting words to paper? (or keyboard)

      Glad you enjoyed.

      Warmly, Heather 🙂

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