Continue Under All Circumstances


(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

Yesterday I got “The Writer’s Handbook 2004” from the publishers of “The Writer” magazine.

If you have any inclination to write and publish your writings, GET THIS BOOK! There are over 3,000 publication listings. There are 50 essays by successful writers. It is well worth the $29.95. Shipping is amazingly fast too!

There were great thoughts on writing in the preface, written by Natalie Goldberg. Here is one snippet:

“And isn’t that the writer’s task? To claim experience, even if we write about things we’ve never done and by characters who are not us. Writing is a physical activity. It comes from our whole body, from our lungs, shoulders, hands, kidneys – and from beyond the corporeal, from memory, vision, imagination, the fusing of what is and what isn’t, a coalescing of time.”

Natalie practices Zen meditation. She studied under a Japanese Zen Master named Katagiri Roshi. In her article, she enumerates three clear things that she learned under Roshi’s teaching which have “become the backbone” for her writing:

1. Continue Under All Circumstances. No excuses.

2. Don’t Be Tossed Away. If your kid falls and needs stitches, write in the waiting room.

3. Make Positive Effort for the Good. Roshi told me this when I was going through a divorce. Positive effort doesn’t mean hauling a mountain to Iowa. Sometimes it just means getting out of bed, brushing your teeth. Picking up the pen. Even if you write about rape, poverty, cancer, it’s a positive act. You are speaking; you are standing up.

I read this short article just before taking my daughter to see the doctor right after work (as opposed to making dinner and relaxing after work). So, I thought, “Hmm… maybe I should bring something to write with while I’m in the waiting room there.”

Then I thought, “Hmm… I’ve been thinking of writing about my dad’s cancer for a few weeks now. Natalie even mentioned writing about cancer as a positive thing compared to not writing at all. I think it’s time to write the article.”

The end result was my journal entry for yesterday, “The Fact Is.” It’s about cancer. I wrote part of it while in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. I thank Natalie for the motivation I received from her article.

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