Zen and the Art of Writing
I’ve been working hard all week on a deadline for a book project I’m working on. I tend to get myself into these binds where I have to set aside all my other writing–blogging, working on the novel–in order to meet a deadline. At the same time, I’ve recently been starting to study Zen. Though I’m not certain one studies Zen so much as experiences Zen.
At any rate, all this has translated into an awareness of acceptance and non-acceptance. I got my knickers in a twist on Wednesday afternoon, as I started feeling like I was never going to get my assignment done, everything I was writing was awful, and furthermore I hated every minute of it. Fighting, fighting, fighting. Why did I have to do this work when my true passion and work lies in writing my novel and my blog? And so on and so forth.
And it took me quite some time to realize that instead of fighting it, all I had to do was accept it all. Acknowledge that I was unhappy and stressed out and let it go. And that is, of course, about 1000 times easier to write than to actually do. But still.
The goal is mindfulness in whatever one finds themselves doing, and I struggle with this. Oh, do I struggle with this. But here is what I am learning: that mindfulness grows from acceptance. If we accept whatever feelings we’re experiencing about our writing, then it clears it away and leaves room just to be mindful about it.
My favorite times in the whole world (which is a very un-Zen statement, but oh well) are when I am one with the words and I’m so focused on the writing that I’m really not aware of anything else. And time passes and I’m amazed at how long I’ve been at it. That, to me, is mindfulness.
And it is best achieved through the process of accepting. Acknowledging all the feelings that come up and letting them go. Its funny, when I first started writing years ago, I would often get into this state of flow. Then I learned more about writing, started teaching, and found it harder and harder to get into this state.
Why? I think because I know too much. I now know all the "rules" and the "techniques" and so forth and so when I am writing I am consciously directing everything, making sure I folow the "rules" and "techniques."
I have a pillow in my office that I painted when I went to Creativity Camp, taught by Julia Cameron, in Taos, New Mexico. It says, "Do the work, don’t judge it," on one side. And on the other it says, "Process, not product."
I made those pillow years ago and their wisdom remains as strong and true as ever. I just need to remember to follow it.