About 3 weeks ago, I began writing daily again, and this time, I began that process by writing in my Garden Journal:
I initially began my practice of writing daily via my work with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.
The Artist’s Way is a process toward emotional and/or creative healing via the practice of writing daily.
While I was living in New Jersey, I taught a class for creative healing and used Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way as a text book. While I was living in New Jersey, I also taught a class in Memoir Writing, and in that class I also stressed the importance of daily writing.
Writing daily, even if it only involves writing a few lines each day, is a way to empty one’s creative reservoir so that new ideas might fill that space. I liken daily writing to the Zen-like thought of “Emptying the Cup.”
Let’s Look at the Zen Philosophy of Emptying
The Full Teacup is a Zen story that illustrates the need for emptying.
A man who was believed to be powerful and wise came to the Zen master to learn something new. Apparently, the student began by reciting to the master some of the things that he already knew. Apparently, he was trying to impress the master with the depth of his knowledge. After the Zen master listened for a moment, he said, “Let’ begin our session with a cup of tea.”
The master filled the student’s cup with tea, but he did not stop pouring. Tea flowed from the cup and ran across the floor. The student said, “Stop, the cup is full.”
The Zen master responded, “Exactly. Your mind is like the full cup of tea. I cannot teach you anything until you empty your mind and open yourself to something new.”
Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – Chapter 11
Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore profit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.
When we sit down to write, we often feel that we have nothing new to say. That is because our minds are filled with stale, lifeless thoughts. Before we can begin to discover what we want to write, we must expel what is inside ourselves, and we must allow an empty space within our consciousness to form. As we begin to refill that emptiness with new material, we fan a flame that we had forgotten was even within ourselves. The act of creating works like bellows.
Here Is the Good News: You Do Have Something New to Say. You Simply Need to Catch a Breath of Fresh Air, and You Need to Use the Bellows of Your Mind.
What Is A Bellows?
A bellows is a device that can be used to build a larger fire. When the arms of a bellows are pulled apart, air is drawn into a bag. When the arms are squeezed shut, the air is rushed out, and the oxygen fans the flames, thus increasing the size of the fire. Once the air has been emptied from the bag, the arms are pulled apart again, and fresh air is drawn back into the bag. When the arms are shut again, another blast of oxygen is expelled, and the flames leap higher. A bellows is sometimes called a blast bag.
Writing Is Like Using A Bellows–Expression is the Flame
Writing is like using a bellows, and expressing is the flame. Note: I said “Expressing is the flame. Thinking is not the same thing as expressing. Thinking simply fills the reservoir more. It is via the expression that the bellows works. When we initially begin to write [or paint or create in other ways], our thoughts may be nothing more than a tiny flicker. Our thoughts need oxygen. We must fan our reflections to help them grow. We begin by pushing out the stale air which has been sitting inside our bags or our minds. When the whiff that was initially inside the bag blows out, the flame may flash for a second or two, but it needs more than a draft of stale, oxygen-less air. Once the bag is empty, however, we can pull apart the bellows, and fresh ideas, renewed memories, and other invigorating images will fill the bags of our minds. When we push that new bag of fresh air across the flickering light, the flames will begin to leap into the air. But in order to fill our bags with that vital and fresh oxygen, we must expel the insipid air that has been trapped inside.
When we sit down to write or to paint, we often feel that we have nothing new to say. That is because our minds are filled with stale, lifeless thoughts. Before we can begin to discover what we want to write and/or to create, we must expel what is inside ourselves and allow an empty space within our consciousnesses. I am beginning to prepare three workbooks that will help creators launch a daily writing habit:
- Harvest Your Past: Reclaim Your Passion – A Memoir Writing Workbook. It will be a ready-to-write place for writers to empty what has been inside their minds, and it will be a space to allow fresh and invigorating thoughts to emerge. When I have the workbook ready, I’ll get back. Until that time, just write anywhere — just use a spiral notebook or a composition book.
- Observe Nature and Write: I plan to offer two tracks for this type of writing:
- Nature Journaling
- Garden Journaling
The truth of the matter is that it doesn’t matter what you write. The secret is to simply write. About 6 years ago, I pulled myself out of a creative rut via blogging. Write anything. The trick is to expel the dull and insipid thoughts that are stagnating within your mind, and to allow something new to come inside.