Monday, November 16, 2009

Monkey Mind

Subtitle: Enjoy the entire sky, please!

I mentioned earlier on this blog that I had a dream come true for me the first weekend in October, when I was lucky enough to get to go to Taos, New Mexico and study writing at a weekend seminar led by Natalie Goldberg. Natalie Goldberg is the author of Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, 1986, and ten other books. She has been a practitioner of Zen for over thirty years and teaches seminars in writing as a spiritual practice.

Now before I get any further in describing what I learned, PLEASE remember one thing: There are as many successful methods of writing as there are authors. So I am not saying that this is THE one and only way to write. It may not be for you. But it is for me!

THE IDEA: Natalie teaches an extremely simple writing process. She advocates writing longhand with a fast pen. Buy a cheap spiral notebook so that you give yourself permission to write the worst crap ever. One of her first writing rules, and there are very few, is to keep the hand moving at all times. Within each of us is a creator and an editor, and that by keeping the hand moving, we keep the editor (called Monkey mind) at bay. If you keep your hand moving, something creative will come out of your hand.

Why not use the laptop? Writing on a computer is a completely different physical activity from writing longhand. You will get a different result. Be mindful that if you use a computer for work, handwriting will signal to the brain that you are involved in a different activity.

Monkey Mind: Monkey mind is the name of our internal editor, that voice that tells you how stupid you are, how you can’t write, how what you write is garbage, etc. Monkey mind robs you. Monkey mind is always commenting, and we shouldn’t care or listen. Monkey mind lives within every artist, not just writers.

Natalie gave an excellent example of how Monkey mind works: You are out enjoying a beautiful day and you get a tall ladder and a marker. You climb up the ladder, and place a mark on the sky. Then you observe and obsess over the microscopic mark (Monkey Mind) and cannot even see the rest of the sky, much less enjoy it. You are blind towards anything else, towards the entire rest of the sky. All else is called Wild Mind. By the way, when you are writing a book, the closer you get to the end, the more Monkey mind screams.

Wild mind is where we want to write from, because this is where we all really think. We engage in discursive thinking; below it is Wild mind. It is our job as writers to connect to Wild mind and then get out of the way. When you meet Wild mind and write from that place, others connect to your writing. Monkey mind, the dot on the sky, that’s where we focus, whereas the whole sky, Wild mind, is where we should focus.

No comments: