Saturday, February 17, 2018

Deal with Uncertainty

“The most precious thing in life is its uncertainty.”  Kenko

In the 14th century, a poet and Buddhist monk named Yoshido Kenko wrote thoughts on life, death, nature, manners, humility and simplicity. He lived in exile at a cottage where he composed his essays.

Kenko believed in 'zuihitsu' - follow the brush - as a method of composition.  He painted thoughts as they came to him on scraps of paper, then attached them to his cottage walls. They survived through the centuries by chance.  A poet friend collected them from the walls. Tsurezuregusa (Essays in Idleness) became a part of Japanese literature.

He felt leaving something incomplete gives room for growth. Kenko disliked perfection, believing asymmetry and irregularity became better goals in life. His imagery included moons in the clouds, cherry blossoms strewn and faded on the earth. He admired the uncertainty of a branch about to blossom.

Here are three of Kenko's views.

How will you follow the brush today and write about them?

A certain recluse, I know not who, once said that no bonds attached him to this life, and the only thing he would regret leaving was the sky.

Are we only to look at flowers in full bloom, at the moon when it is clear?

To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations—such is a pleasure beyond compare.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Write with the Weather

How do we nourish and sustain relationships with family and friends? Often we attempt to provide a lighthouse for those we care about.

If frustrated with their choices, we rush into the turbulence with lifeboats.

Too many buoys thrown in the water conk some strugglers in the head. Canoes require collaboration and tip easily. We have learned not to send a sailboat into a tsunami.

Exhausted, we climb back into the lighthouse and dust the lens. Sometimes we call for a tugboat to get everyone past the harbor. We breathe and hope for a change in the weather.

Reciprocity rules in relationships that last. We also thrive in a reciprocity with writing. For writing to nurture us, we desire the thrills and rhythm to sustain our sense of direction. 

Writing must provide support as we struggle through the fog. Often this relationship feels unrequited. We push and push clutching for words that drown beyond our reach.

Similar to our relationships with others, we must figure out for ourselves what Aristotle meant by, “Know thyself.” What do we know about our individual strengths and challenges when churning in a wordless maelstrom? We need to re-create our self-assurance and find a Positive to remind us what works. A “learn thyself” process keeps us going.

Nine Preparations for inclement weather:

1. Stock your own life raft while the sun shines. What are your best resources? During the times of flow, write down what works for you. What have you done “this time” to push beyond?

2. Challenge yourself to discover ways to return to the page or screen. Turn up the music. Sit there and let fingers fly without worry about the result. Don’t become anxious to create a finished piece.

3. Learn your rhythm. Chart your mind’s peaks and valleys by week. Give yourself a day of rest and read a variety of words. Choose words that amuse or amaze. Write one word or one sentence on colored cards.

4. As you begin to learn about yourself, consider: Does creativity increase the closer you get to the deadline? Can you count on this? What other ways could you manage your creativity? Consider setting an earlier deadline to trick the “procrastinating creative.”

5. When frustration floods, return to research and information gathering. Write a letter to your writing as a friend. Ask this pal for help.

6. Most breakthroughs occur when you move away from the project. Take a walk. Write about forces of nature deal with weather.

7. Consider improbable connections. Let your ideas rearrange in kaleidoscopic fashion.

8. Write your process for all writing projects. Notice it does not progress in a linear fashion. This will become your Best Friend.

9. Create your own metaphor for struggle. Consider your greatest accomplishment and how you achieved it. Use all your senses to recall it in detail.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Animal Stories

About 12,000 years ago, wolves with friendly natures wandered into Native American camps.  Soon they became protectors, hunters and pack animals. Later dogs became children's playmates and family members.  Animals have provided physical and mental needs of human beings throughout history.

In Native American culture, animals assumed spiritual roles through shamanism, as power animals or totems. People believed the animals became helpers and healers to anyone who sought them out. 

Shamanism explains that everyone is thought to have a power animal or animal spirits that live in the should to protect and imbue them with wisdom. Horses and owls were the earliest used by the Shaman.

Choose two animals. Give them a desire to have traits or special powers and write a story. Try a turtle who has the desire to fly. He meets a bird who wishes to speak a human language. What if a bear wants to become huggable instead of fierce? He meets a snail who begs for the power of an eagle.

Play with the notion of animals and their needs.  

Keep asking  . . .  and then what happens?