Let Writing Write Writing

Yesterday I was reminded of the phrase “Let zazen sit zazen.” Zazen, in case you don’t know, is the Japanese term for sitting meditation in Zen Buddhism.

The phrase has to do with not going to sitting meditation with some goal to attain, such as enlightenment, but rather to see that sitting meditation (zazen) is itself an expression of enlightenment. There’s nothing to try and grasp, no goal to attain.

I started to think about other areas of my life that this way of thinking could apply to, and unsurprisingly landed on my writing practice.

Changing that phrase to fit, we get “Let writing write writing.” A mouthful, perhaps, but what it means is to let the practice of writing create the written work, and that’s all it needs to be. If I write to achieve a goal, like publication, then I’m setting myself up in various ways. I might not get the work published, unless I do it myself here or through self-publishing options like I did with The Goblin Road on Barnes and Noble’s website. Choosing to do that isn’t a bad thing to do. Sometimes it’s the best option.

But when I wrote my books, I didn’t write with the goal of publishing in mind. I wrote the books because I was entertaining myself. I was enjoying the act of creating characters and giving them stories to live. It wasn’t a goal, but a process that I loved.

Sometimes I find myself feeling discouraged by a lack of success. Once the books were written, the process that I enjoyed so much, storytelling and world-building, had ended. The process of now working on selling my first novel while searching for an agent to represent me for the sequel and other books has come to dominate my time as a writer. While necessary, it’s not something I enjoy.

I try to return to the page to work on the next book, and doubts plague me. At that point, thoughts of goals I must attain from whatever I write inevitably arise. This is a huge monkey wrench thrown into the creative machinery. Nothing gets written, because how can I feel inspired if I’m too fixated on some goal?

After seeing that phrase again yesterday and thinking about how it applies to my writing practice, I see that I will likely endlessly need to remind myself to write for the sake of expressing myself creatively. Let writing write writing. No goals to complicate things.

Today I remind myself of this. Tomorrow, we’ll see.

By J. Parrish Lewis

J. Parrish Lewis was born and raised in Maryland. In his youth there, he and his brother had many adventures in the dogwood forests near his home. His nostalgia for these adventures has strongly influenced his characters, their relationships, and their perspective on the world they inhabit. He moved to California’s coast to earn his degree in communications and now lives with his family in the San Joaquin Valley. Lewis is profoundly deaf and uses American Sign Language to communicate. He enjoys hazelnut coffee, captioned movies, and walking his dog.

Comments are awesome. I approve positive comments, even if you disagree with me. I don't approve comments that are negative, even if you're agreeing with me.