The Zen of Writing: A Coach’s Perspective
Memory, as Milan Kundera has pointed out, and as anyone who has attempted a memoir knows in his bones, is not recollection, it is reconstruction.
Recollection is, on the other hand, what we do in any creative act. Robert Burdette Sweet, author and teacher of writing, tells us in Writing Towards Wisdom: The Writer as Shaman that “all creating is a form of recollection — not a discovery but a rediscovery.”
In this respect, writing is indistinguishable from any spiritual discipline. The path is narrow, but rewarding. In Writing Down the Bones, or perhaps it was in Wild Mind (Natalie would understand), Natalie Goldberg talks about the day her Zen master told her that she must choose: her Zen or her writing. In his eyes, they were both a real discipline, a practice.
“Only by artificially channeling dramatic energy can the natural revelation of the unconscious reveal itself to the conscious.” Sweet again. And so, Sweet advises you, in perhaps the best advice to writers struggling past writer’s block, procrastination, and self-doubt, you must struggle
to trust what your unconscious is up to, no matter how bizarre, how forbidden, how complex. The main characteristic of creative persons is an enormous tolerance for ambiguity. Permit yourself not to know. You are writing the story to find out what happens and why. Since the story is writing itself, you can’t know the ending. You can’t know the middle. You might not know the beginning.
Helping you to trust yourself, your instincts, and the wise unfoldment of your unconscious is what writing coaches do. At a client’s request, we can also add accountability: X words per day or week, Y pages, Z hours — the way to measure what you will commit to doing for yourself is up to you.
In this Writing category, I invite writing coaching clients to meet and to share, to discuss their creative problems, to offer advice and encouragement, and, of course, to do whatever your intuition (aka the subconscious) tells you to do, without any backtalk.