On Writing: Creativity, Practice, and Style

I’ve recently been thinking about the art of writing. For a long time, I’ve thought of myself as a lackluster writer. This thought holds sway in my mind because of some negative feedback I got from a couple professors I had back in my college days. However, thinking back in a more detached manner now, I realize that their perspective came from an evaluation which only valued a particular style — moreover, a style with a fairly narrow scope and a somewhat anti-creative bent. The style that flows forth for me when I simply write, simply let creativity manifest itself on the page, is not readily that style. You know what, though? That’s fine, and I’m not necessarily a bad writer because of it.

A couple weekends ago, I went to an author’s reading. The author was Neil Gaiman, a famous writer of the magical and fantastical. He took some questions from the audience about writing, and he focused on one thing: to succeed at writing, simply write and put it out there. We live in a time when communicating your message with others is easier than ever. This doesn’t mean that you’ll make millions off of your creative works, but is that really success with writing? Isn’t the purpose merely to communicate with others? You can write, write, write away and get that message out to others across the globe. His feedback on “writer’s block: Feeling stuck? Don’t know what to create? Create something else and come back to what you’re stuck on later. There are always more things that need to be written.

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I thought this was really wise counsel. For myself, one of my points of feeling stuck in the creation of this blog has been two-fold: 1) at times, I don’t know how to complete something that I’m trying to write – the thoughts and analyses getting stuck in the process of creation; 2) I have absolutely been certain that I am horrible at poetry – getting even more negative feedback in the past. Eventually, however, I moved past these blocks by just starting to write poems, tersely putting the ideas on the page and deciding to put them out there whether they are any good or not. In many ways, that process of creative writing was the impetus that got this blog started, but I’ve gotten bolder with these stylistic experiments over time, and almost always, when I doubt my writing, or more particularly, my style, those posts get the most feedback and the most likes.

Where am I going with all of this? It’s simple enough. Let me use one more metaphor: growing up, I had a “runner’s build” – lanky with strong legs. I never imagined that I would have any upper body strength, but when I reached my 20s, I started spending time at the gym, doing calisthenics, and challenging myself to get better at pullups and pushups. Now, I have big shoulders and arms from all that work. My point? If you want to write and be creative with words, go do it. Try different things. Write academic analyses, but also try writing a haiku poem from time to time. Work with meter and rhyme, but also explore powerful ideas. Try being creative in any way you feel interested without worrying about others’ feedback or your strengths or weaknesses. With time, you’ll get better at it, but it’s not about self-absorbed concern about you and your excellence – it’s simply about the act of creating; practice the excellence of your style and form, and it will get easier to write often, deeply, and well.

 

1 Year–100

A turn…

I started this blog a year ago, and so much has been unfolding throughout the 12 months since. Also, I just posted the blog’s 100th post in the last few days, a good place to mark the end of this year’s journey.

I’m grateful for all of your comments and likes. I am thankful for your companionship on the Way–searching for wisdom and a way of expressing it to all sentient beings out there. May we continue to dance along the Way together, and may these writings be to the benefit of all who read them.

Deep Gassho!

Z

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50

With the re-blogging of the last post on a summary of Buddha’s teachings, I hit 50 posts for the blog. I started this blog just under 6 months ago with the hopes of helping others engage differently with their lives, their thoughts, and their world. I nearly gave up on posting a couple months ago, and what I had initially envisioned for the blog has evolved with time (I initially thought it would be primarily philosophical discussions or my philosophy-prose poetry, but it has become much more about Buddhism, Taoism, and finding a truly engaged spiritual path in the midst of heartbreak and all the other difficulties of life). It’s been quite a journey! I thank you all for traveling the path with me. Knowing that there are others out there who are touched by these writings has been my greatest support and inspiration at times in the last months. I’m grateful for your comments and likes, as well as all the posts on your own blogs that I have the joy of visiting. Please continue reading and writing. I’ll be here.

Best,
Z

Keep on Walking

Recently, I’ve questioned whether I should continue this blog. It has never been about me–I don’t care if I have 1 follower or 10,000. However, I’ve written every word of this in the hopes of engaging others, impacting their lives. The intention has always been to help others, calling them to see their lives differently. I’ve poured my heart into this recently, writing post after post–some quite challenging for me to write, as I’ve tried to balance difficult topics with a level of expression I hope will be readable for most everyone. Yet, my numbers in terms of views have been low, and I’ve started to doubt, to question whether these posts really make any difference to anyone out there.

Again, this doesn’t hurt my ego, as such accomplishment and feedback is not my aim. However, it has made me feel like it’s not worth the effort to post here if this is becoming an online journal. It’s precisely because I don’t want this to be a space of my self-aggrandizement that I wonder if I should stop. Luckily, I’ve had a couple friends respond to these feelings of mine, and I’m grateful for what they had to say.

One told me that if my purpose is to inspire others, I should take a long-term view. Perhaps the words I write will take time to find the right readers. I should keep writing for those readers, even if they aren’t reading yet and may not be for some time to come.

The other friend told me to keep posting and not worry about readers. Just write.

Both of these acts of support show true friendship: neither offered simple words about how smart or great I am, a little warming blanket of comfort. Instead, they called out the virtue of my efforts and reinvigorated my intention for this blog.

Finally, these words from one of the books I have read recently act as one more source of inspiration in this choice. They resonate well with my recent post about the way being in the heart. If you would like further understanding of bodhicitta, please see that post:

Rousing bodhicitta is an occasion for continual delight. We can hardly wait to raise it again. If we were the only person in the whole world to be generating love and compassion, we would generate it with fearless joy and delight until the day we die. Our aspiration to help others is so great that we would gladly spend an eternity in hell even to help a child be less afraid to speak in class. – Sakyong Mipham, Turning the Mind into an Ally, p. 207

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I keep offering my words here again and again: keep walking the Way.

May I aspire to such awakened heart myself, and may my words help all who need them.

Gassho.