First off, I can’t take credit for the title of this week’s musing. I got it from one of the essays in Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing . Within the first page of the essay, he all caps those words: WORK, RELAXATION, DON’T THINK! The crux of the essay is that in order to really tap into creativity, you need to follow those three phrases and then you can obtain ZEN. Each word is broken down into what he means by them as it relates to creativity. He also notes that one doesn’t have to follow these in order in order to achieve true creativity. Any combination should work. It’s not just writing he uses as an example; he pulls from art, dancing, and athletics just to name a few.
This got me thinking about how those three phrases relate to my own creative quest. What order would I personally put these to draw out the ZEN of creativity? Currently the reality looks like this:
WORK – I’ve been blessed a natural work ethic. I don’t need to be told twice to do something. I just do whatever it is that needs to be done as quickly as I can so I can relax. This is great for getting chores done or a ‘regular’ job but for some reason, I struggle a bit with this when it comes to writing. What I mean by that is I get what I called ‘Writer’s ADD’. This goes back to junior high school when essays and research papers became a standard part of homework. I absolutely cannot sit down with pen and paper or a computer and just write nonstop like a machine. I have to stop and stare off into space to think, usually not about what I’m supposed to be working on, look up something utterly unimportant on the Internet, playing with the dogs who have been pouting for hours, or a myriad of other things. I’ll then get to work and have a burst of writing input before I get distracted again. I do get my work done, though, which is what’s important.
RELAXATION – I’m not very good at this. I work first then relax but I have to have worked a lot in order to fully relax. It’s also about the quality of the work that allows me to switch off my brain and enjoy myself. If I haven’t done enough or the quality isn’t quite what I had hoped it would be, then relaxation is much more frustrating. It spills over into the next day and nags at me to do a better job, to get more done so I can let that tension go.
DON’T THINK – What a novel concept! One that intellectually I understand but emotionally it hasn’t sunk in. It’s getting there, slowly, as I draft stories but this is the one I want to work on the most. I feel this is the component that holds me back from really getting deep into my writing. I honestly think I’ve yet to produce a work which I can look at it and go ‘Yes, this is exactly how I saw everything and I did a damn good job getting that across.’ Some of this is probably due to my naturally perfectionist nature however I am working on understanding good enough is better than perfection. Hopefully there is a trickle-down effect.
I think in a perfect world, DON’T THINK, RELAXATION, and WORK are what I would live by as a writer. If I don’t get caught up in my own paralyzing thoughts, then I could relax enough to work, not only hard, but also with unfiltered joy. Perhaps then I’ll my true, authentic creative voice will come out and I’ll have obtained ZEN.