zen_in_the_art_of_writing

I knew nothing of zen until a few weeks ago what

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I knew nothing of ZEN until a few weeks ago. What little I know now, since you must be curious as to the reason for my title, is that here again, in the art of archery, long years must pass where one learns simply the act of drawing the bow and fitting the arrow. Then the process, sometimes tedious and nerve- wracking, of preparing to allow the string, the arrow, to release itself. The arrow must fly on its way to a target that must never be considered. I don't think, after this long article, I have to show you, here, the relationship between archery and the writer's art. I have already warned against thinking on targets. Instinctively, years ago, I knew the part that Work must play in my life. More than twelve years ago I wrote in ink on my typing 151
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Z E N I N T H E A R T O F W R I T I N G board at my right hand the words: DON'T THINK! Can you blame me if, at this late date, I am delighted when I stumble upon verification of my instinct in Herrigel's book on Zen? The time will come when your characters will write your stories for you, when your emotions, free of literary cant and commercial bias, will blast the page and tell the truth. Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations. Plot is observed after the fact rather than before. It cannot precede action. It is the chart that remains when an action is through. That is all Plot ever should be. It is human desire let run, running, and reaching a goal. It cannot be mechanical. It can only be dynamic. So, stand aside, forget targets, let the characters, your fingers, body, blood, and heart do. Contemplate not your navel then, but your subconscious with what Wordsworth called "a wise passiveness." You need to go to Zen for the answer to your problems. Zen, like all philosophies, followed but in the tracks of men who learned from instinct what was good for them. Every wood-turner, every sculptor worth his marble, every ballerina, practices what Zen preaches without having heard the word in all their lives. "It is a wise father that knows his own child," should be paraphrased to "It is a wise writer who knows his own subcon- scious." And not only knows it but lets it speak of the world as it and it alone has sensed it and shaped it to its own truth. 152
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Z E N I N T H E A R T O F W R I T I N G Schiller advised those who would compose to "Remove the watchers from the gates of intelligence." Coleridge put it thus: "The streamy nature of association, which thinking curbs and rudders." Lastly, for additional reading to supplement what I have said, Aldous Huxley's "The Education of an Amphibian" in his book, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow. And, a really fine book, Dorothea Brande's Becoming A Writer, published many years ago, but detailing many of the ways a writer can find out who he is and how to get the stuff of himself out on paper, often through word-association.
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