Two weeks ago, I fought my way through 6 pages of revision. I hated my writing, and I’m pretty sure my writing hated me back. Last week, before I began revisions of the next chapter, I sat with my pages and waited. It sounds a little odd, yes, but it’s a practice in one of the books I’m reading from my Writer’s Spirit course. I tried to empty my mind and ‘be’ in the presence of the pages. It worked—I wrote two new pages and cleaned up the existing ones. Later, I contemplated the revision process, how it is involves three elements: the existing work, the writer as creator, and the writer as editor. It’s a complex process involving contemplation and choice-making.
In Making A Literary Life, Carolyn See writes that the literary life is like a long-term marriage. If writing a new piece produces the same thrill as the initial courtship, the revision process can best be compared to the point in the relationship where you stress about the mortgage or bicker about housekeeping. The commitment to writing is like any long-term relationship, filled with thrills, boredom, angst, and joy.
I’m still thinking about slowing down and am now adding simplifying to the list of practices I’m trying to cultivate. I’m good at multi-tasking; as a parent, I have to be, in many cases. It can be a detrimental quality, however. This occurred to me this morning while I was reading a lovely description of a Zen tea ceremony in John Daido Loori’s The Zen of Creativity. As I was reading these pages, I was also thinking of a soccer email I had to send out and a friend’s text I needed to answer. I wasn’t fully engaged with the words on the page. “If our mind is cluttered with thoughts or worries…[w]e’re not being simply present,” writes Daido Loori. As I finished reading the chapter, I remained mindful of my drifting thoughts and refocused when needed. The text could wait, as could the email.