Drugs, Meditation, and Creativity

This week, William T. Hathaway shares his story on how he was inspired to write visionary fiction. Read how he steered his pain toward a creative path:

meditate-1038838-mAt the age of 15 I decided I was going to be a writer. I loved books, and writing them seemed to be the greatest thing in the world to do. Now after eight books it still does.

But at first I had a terrible time writing. My thoughts were jumbled, and I couldn’t concentrate. I did poorly in school because I couldn’t hold my mind on the assignments. I was too caught up in my psychological stress and subconscious conflicts to be able to really write or study.

I started smoking marijuana, thinking I could blast my way through all my blocks with that. But it made them worse. When I was high I thought I was being very creative, but the next day when I read what I’d written, it was drivel. Eventually I flunked out of the University of Colorado, but I figured who needs college — I want to be a bohemian artist. So I moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan and wrote, painted, and played drums, but mostly got high. New York had many more different kinds of dope than Boulder, and I tried them all, hoping for that creative breakthrough. But finally I realized I needed to get out of that whole scene if I ever wanted to do any good writing.

The war on Vietnam was just beginning, and the military draft was after me. I’d been reading a lot of writers whose first books were war novels, so I figured I would make a 180-degree change from my current scene. I joined the Special Forces to write a war novel. I was probably high when I got this idea, because it wasn’t a very good idea. During our search and destroy operations in Vietnam, I kept telling myself, “I’m just here gathering material for a novel.” But our deeds have consequences that affect us and others regardless of why we do them. I’m still dealing with the repercussions from my involvement, and writing and peace activism have become my way of atoning for that.

I got back from the war in 1967 and moved to Marin County north of San Francisco to write the book. But by then all sorts of new fun dope was around, and I found myself slipping back into that scene. I was also suffering from PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, which gave me combat flashbacks and self-destructive depressions. The result was I still couldn’t write.

My best friend from Special Forces, Keith Parker, had started doing Transcendental Meditation and said it made his mind clear and calm. I tried it and found he was right. When I meditated, I sat with eyes closed and thought a mantra, a sound without meaning that took my mind to quieter, finer levels and eventually beyond all mental activity to deep silence. Subjectively, TM was like diving down through an inner ocean into a realm of serenity. Objectively, it is a physiological state of deep rest that enables the nervous system to repair itself and heal stresses that are blocking it. In this expanded consciousness I could access my subconscious mind and resolve my psychological conflicts. They weren’t trapping my mental energy anymore. The war was in the past, not raging now in my head. My internal pressure began to be relieved. I didn’t need to get high. I was in touch with my creativity. I could concentrate and follow a line of thought. And most of all I could write.

I made good progress on the novel, and a sample of it got me accepted into the creative writing program at Columbia University. I went back to college and back to New York, but this time I made the Dean’s List and no drugs. The novel, A World of Hurt, won a Rinehart Foundation Award and helped me get a Fulbright grant to teach creative writing at universities in Europe.

As I continued meditating, I realized the experiences I’d been having could be source material for fiction. I also wanted to convey to readers the power of higher states of consciousness to change individuals and society. So I began writing visionary novels dealing with themes of peace and social justice. The first one, Summer Snow, is the story of a warrior who falls in love with a mystic woman and learns through meditation that higher consciousness is more effective than violence. His new insights, though, put him into conflict with the military.  Summer Snow are available at Amazon.


William T. Hathaway’s books include A WORLD OF HURT (Rinehart Foundation Award), SUMMER SNOW, RADICAL PEACE, and WELLSPRINGS: A Fable of Consciousness. His latest, LILA, THE REVOLUTIONARY, is a visionary fable for adults about an eight-year-old girl who sparks a world revolution for social justice: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1897455844. When not writing, he works as a teacher with the Transcendental Meditation program. Selections from his books are available at www.peacewriter.org.

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11 Responses to Drugs, Meditation, and Creativity

  1. William, You are indeed an inspiring and creative person. I admire how you turned your pain into VF writing that can help others change their worldview. Bravo.

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  2. philipparees says:

    Interesting account of a daimon sifting through all the external solutions, until it forced the writer in the wings to find meaning within, and write that!

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  3. tuilorraine says:

    TM is a marvellous game-changer for so many of us. Not just authors, but anyone with something to achieve. Let's hear it for the Peaceful Warriors of the world.

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  4. reanolanmartin says:

    Quite a story, William! I'm sure these experiences have expanded your scope and deepened your stories. Look forward to reading some of them.

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  5. jacklynlo says:

    life is a challenge, which each of us should win. in the case of William HE is a WINNER

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  6. libredux says:

    Thanks for sharing your story with us, William, and how you managed to connect to your creativity. Your novel sounds very interesting and I will check it out.

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  7. What a story, William. So many of us had similar experience. I love TM, too. I studied the sidhis, became a teacher, and still teach sometimes. and always meditate. I wrote a novel about the movement under my pen name, Louise Ryder. It's called God in a Box. When I developed my pen name, it was because "experts" said if you write in different genres, you should do so under different names so readers will not be put off by something different. But I think it's all visionary fiction. Looking forward to reading your work.

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  8. A great case for the power of meditation – and writing. Thanks William. Welcome to the VFA family.

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  9. Thanks for your insightful contribution, William, and welcome as a VFA poster. Am a bit late with a comment as I was finishing a busy week prepping and delivering a presentation for IONS (Institute of Noetic Science), where many in a good sized audience (150 or so) heard of VF for the first time. In talking about accessing visionary ability, I always stress the role of meditation (don't use TM, can be as simple as sit down, hold still and deep breathe) as both primary and indispensable. Thanks for reminding us of that with your very impressive story. Have your books on my reading list now.

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  10. btlowry says:

    Really nice story! And very well told.

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  11. Peace Writer, I have never felt more strongly that I am in good company. I also am searching for the Peace Story, and there is much we can all learn from you. Together, VF writers can change the course of human history, I walk with you, brother, on your Hero Way.

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