Dissecting the Zen

Seems writers love to analyze the creative process of their craft; writing groups, writing books, writing classes, writing conferences… There’s always someone willing to take your money and tell you where you need improvement. None of those are inherently bad things, mind you – God knows I’ve read enough bad writing in my time. But I think the discussion gets a touch OCD when it moves past the technicalities of plot, characterization and grammar, and descends into convoluted scrutiny over an author’s psyche and motivations. Venture into that strange land and when the ‘experts’ start throwing around terms like “probabilistic latent semantic analysis”, your safest bet is to run away fast before you wind up nodding and drooling like a zombie on Quaaludes.

Or worse, never write another word because you’re too busy calculating the procedure. For parallel thoughts and a painfully familiar assessment, click HERE

I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top. ~English Professor (Name Unknown), Ohio University

In my mind there’s a synergy to the creative process, and because it’s mysterious, greater than the sum of its parts, examination is vital, even mandatory. But strict dissection leaves it dead; another Humpty Dumpty case stabbed and slabbed under the cold lights.

One of my favorite authors, Ray Bradbury, spoke about the ‘zen of writing’; about ‘doing’ not ‘trying to do’. I know there’s an equal and opposite error, but I’m convinced we over-think the process, and expend passion and energy that would otherwise animate our fiction. I confess my own guilt here, but I keep being drawn to my stories – not thinking about how I think about them.

If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.
Ray Bradbury

By all means, we need to prompt discussions, gain insight and perspective, hone our craft; but for the love of God and all the saints and angels, don’t you think we and our audience would be better served if we spent the majority of our time writing the stories that burn in our hearts?

An old racetrack joke reminds you that your program contains all the winners’ names. I stare at my typewriter keys with the same thought. ~Mignon McLaughlin

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