Zen writing

It’s hard to clear the space in your brain to write when there are a thousand other things you ought to (you think) be doing. I have gotten much better in the rest of my life at focusing only on the task I am doing at this particular moment and leaving the rest outside my consciousness. Somehow this is harder when it comes to writing. Even scheduled time gets psychically interrupted by metaphorical knocks on the door and trills of the phone.

Even as I write this, I am aware of the deadline looming, 10 minutes hence, when I will need to get ready to go to a meeting. But in fact I am not now at the meeting, or preparing for the meeting–so why is it so difficult not to let the meeting interrupt what I am doing right now?

This is the great tension between living in the moment and indulging the imagination. For a long time I pondered how the act of writing could be an in-the-moment activity. After all, while writing, especially writing fiction, one’s mind ranges from childhood to an as-yet-unlived old age, inhabits the bodies of creatures unearthly, and engages in all manner of other activities that seem to take one away from the here and now. But actually there are few things more immersed in the moment than writing. I think many writers can tell you of the near-trance state that often yields some of their best work, a state of relaxed but focused concentration that is both meditative and energetic.

So how do you get there? Like anything else, it’s a practice. Just keep coming back to it. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get ready for that meeting…

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