Friday, April 26, 2013

Creation and the still mind

Every writer has her own rituals: music, food, chair, spot at the local coffee shop that isn't next to the guy talking on his cell phone nonstop. I don't particularly care about music or food, but I like to be facing a window with some sun streaming through (or rain on some days if I'm in the mood).

One thing I think most everyone can agree on is the importance of having a still mind.

To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.  

-Lao Tzu

But how to achieve that when all around you is chaos?

I wish I was Zen.  I wish I could do yoga and calm my crazy brain but I am a ballet dancer and that is a very structured environment.  It helps me, sometimes, to be in a class and allow the discipline of the dance form to create some structure in my mind but often it only lasts for the 90 minutes I am in the studio or for the hours I am teaching.  Once I am in my car and headed home, the crazy quilt of thoughts comes back.

With all of the recent events in the news (the marathon tragedies, the Texas explosion, the failure of gun control in the Senate, and the many, many terrible things that occur on a daily basis in every city around the globe), it's really difficult to keep a calm and still mind and to allow the universe to surrender its messages to us, the creators.

-- How do we create characters who are sympathetic if we do not have sympathy for others? 
-- How do we invent plots that do not feel trite? 
-- How do we promote messages of love and equality when all around us we see and experience hate and intolerance?
-- And should we do anything of the sort or simply write and let others invest their own meaning into our words?

I have no conclusions, no solutions. I know people who insist on ignoring what they can do nothing about and that's great for them if they can do that but writers need to examine the world beyond them at all times.  When we retreat and seclude ourselves, then our characters and their thoughts/words/actions are not real to the reader.  Nothing feels sincere if it is not based in some sort of reality.