Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Writing as meditation

At one time I had something like a real meditation practice. That has not been the case for awhile now, largely because I can't figure out how to meditate with cats either a) climbing on me or b) hurling themselves at the closed door. No, really: this is a good excuse.

At any rate, I am now applying meditation techniques to my writing. For the last several weeks I have just not felt good about anything I've written, which has led me to put whatever creative energy I have into thinking up excuses for why I don't have to write today. The bottom line is, I don't want to write if it's going to suck, and there seems to be a better than even chance these days that it will.

So what I've decided to do is institute my own personal NaNoWriMo, except without, necessarily, the "No(vel)" part. From now till the end of January, I am going to write 1,000 words per day which are nominally related to the story idea I am currently least repelled by. I am not going to craft my sentences or delete sections that seem irrelevant, and above all I am not going to pounce on the thing and strangle the life out of it by declaring: Aha! I know what this is about! This is definitely a novel/novella/short story, from the point of view of the alien baby, and there's a big shoot-em-up at the end! There is to be no, repeat, NO anticipation.

This is related to the technique in Insight Meditation in which you don't try to stop yourself from thinking, but rather notice the fact that you are thinking, without pursuing any particular thought. You notice, and then return to the breath, as they say. So I notice the anticipation (This is a novel! I know it! Ooh, I can really build on that scene!) but make no commitments to it. I just go back to churning out words.The words are the breath.

Like meditation, this process sometimes really feels like crap. But I have become aware of how little tolerance I have both for writing poorly, and for not knowing what I am doing--that is, not being able to anticipate the outcome. In the past, it seems like I have been able to work around this and get stuff done anyway, but now, for whatever reason, this is not so. Therefore I am resorting to the kinds of writing advice one always gets in beginning writing classes, and which I have generally scorned.

I really don't know what will happen, but at least I'm writing.

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