Katagiri Roshi says: "Poor artists. They suffer very much. They finish a masterpiece and they are not satisfied. They want to go on and do another." Yes, but it's better to go on and do another if you have the urge than to start drinking and become alcoholic or eat a pound of good fudge and get fat.
Sometimes people say to me, “I want to write, but I have five kids, a full-time job, a wife who beats me, a tremendous debt to my parents,” and so on. I say to them, “There is no excuse. If you want to write, write. This is your life. You are responsible for it. You will not live forever. Don’t wait. Make the time now, even if it is ten minutes once a week.
We have to accept ourselves in order to write. Now none of us does that fully: few of us do it even halfway. Don’t wait for one hundred percent acceptance of yourself before you write, or even eight percent acceptance. Just write. The process of writing is an activity that teaches us about acceptance.
Actually, when I look at my old notebooks, I think I have been a bit self-indulgent and have given myself too much time to meander in my discursive thoughts. I could have cut through sooner. Yet it is good to know about our terrible selves, not laud or criticize them, just acknowledge them. Then, out of this knowledge, we are better equipped to make a choice for beauty, kind consideration and clear truth. We make this choice with our feet firmly on the ground. We are not running wildly after beauty with fear at our backs.
There's an old adage in writing: 'Don't tell, but show.' Writing is not psychology. We do not talk 'about' feelings. Instead the writer feels and through her words awakens those feelings in the reader. The writer takes the reader's hand and guides him through the valley of sorrow and joy without ever having to mention those words.
Take out another notebook, pick up another pen, and just write, just write, just write. In the middle of the world, make one positive step. In the center of chaos, make one definitive act. Just write. Say yes, stay alive, be awake. Just write. Just write. Just write.
Our bodies are garbage heaps: we collect experience, and from the decomposition of the thrown-out eggshells, spinach leaves, coffee grinds, and old steak bones out of our minds, come nitrogen, heat, and very fertile soil. Out of this fertile soil bloom our poems and stories. But this does not come all at once. It takes time. Continue to turn over and over the organic details of your life until some of them fall through the garbage of discursive thoughts to the solid ground of black soil.
I hear people say they're going to write. I ask, when? They give me vague statements. Indefinite plans get dubious results. When we're concrete about our writing time, it alleviates that thin constant feeling of anxiety that writers have - we're barbecuing hot dogs, riding a bike, sailing out in the bay, shopping for shoes, even helping a sick friend, but somewhere nervously at the periphery of our perception we know we belong somewhere else - at our desk!
If you feel bored or uncomfortable as you're writing, ask yourself what's bothering you and write about that. Sometimes your creative energy is like water in a kinked hose, and before thoughts can flow on the topic at hand, you have to straighten the hose by attending to whatever is preoccupying you.
Tulips come up in spring for no reason. Of course, you planted bulbs and now in April the earth warms up. But why? For no reason except gravity. Why gravity? For no reason. And why did you plant red tulip bulbs to begin with? For beauty, which is itself and has no reason. So the world is empty. Things rise and fall for no reason. And what a great opportunity that is! You can start writing again at any minute. Let go of all your failures and sit down and write something great. Or write something terrible and feel great... Read more »
It's okay to embark on writing because you think it will get you love. At least it gets you going, but it doesn't last. After a while you realize that no one cares that much. Then you find another reason: money. You can dream on that one while the bills pile up. Then you think: "Well, I'm the sensitive type. I have to express myself." Do me a favor. Don't be so sensitive. Be tough. It will get you further along when you get rejected. Finally, you just do it because you happen to like it.