Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Writer Zen

A friend gave me a Zen desk calendar, probably in hopes of inspiring me every day. It's one of those blocky-types that displays one day per sheet, along with a quotation or saying that embraces all things Zen.

I love philosophy, and I love my friend, but for nine months this calendar has been pissing me off just about every day. It makes no sense. None. I don't get it. I've even saved some of the sayings and asked people. They don't get it either. For example:

January 8: "I know what the great cure is: it is to give up, to relinquish, to surrender, so that our little hearts may beat in unison with the great heart of the world." -- Henry Miller

Giving up as a great cure. Sure. Somebody IM Sean Lindsay, will you? This is right up his alley.

February 2: "The night light is sooty -- a cold evening of snow." -- Etsujin

Sooty snow? Black snow? What?

February 18: "Do not linger about where the Buddha is, and where he is not, pass on." -- Zen saying

I swear, this was ripped off from that Go to Jail card from Monopoly. You know, do not pass Go, do not collect $200....

March 6: "Your soul isn't in your body; your body is in your soul!" -- Alan Watts

So tell me, does this skirt make my soul look big?

August 5: "When a man is instantly awakened, he comes back to his original mind." -- The Vimalakirti Sutra

When a man is instantly awakened, he usually has to take a whiz. Oh, wait, I get it now. Never mind.

August 18: "The whole world is you. Yet you keep thinking there is something else." -- Hsueh-Feng

If I'm the whole world, then who are all these other people? For that matter, who the heck are you?

I decided that next year I'm going to make my own Zen calendar. A Writer Zen calendar, because if anyone needs some Zen that works, it's us. Here are some of the sayings that I'm planning to put on mine:

January 1: While you sit and ponder the universe outside your window, I am mailing off my book proposal to your editor.

March 15: Your novel, it dwells in Library of Congress. Hatchet job review, it dwells on HenParty.com. All is where it should be.

June 30: There, in your plot, a hole. See? Fix.

July 23: Where there is Hugo, Rita or Edgar, do not go. Where there is mystery chicken, do not eat. Where there is agent, editor, and cheap alcohol, do not drink.

September 6: They don't all hate you. Go and write.

September 7: Maybe two hate you. But only two, I promise. Could you write now?

September 8: All right. Fine. They all hate you. I hate you. Happy? Now go write something, or tomorrow we'll start talking about why we hate you.

Now it's your turn -- what saying would you put on your Writer Zen calendar?


  1. I have to say, PBW, that I love your sense of humor. :)

    My Zen calender would probably say:

    Yes, there will probably be people who read your work and think they could have written it better than you. And yes, some of them may even be right about that. The difference is you will have written it and not them, so set butt to chair, fingers to keyboard, and think "nyah nyah nyah".

  2. This is the sound of hand clapping, and it is clapping for your novel.

    Yes, the universe is conspiring against you so that you have no time to write. Damn universe.

    Hack or do not, there is no try.

    You may think you are a hack writer, you're not. You're much worse. Write anyways.

    The slush isn't going to grow itself, get your butt in the chair.

    Your novel might be the camel that breaks the literary intern's back.

  3. Refresh your weary writer’s soul.
    Vodka burns away the ice much as water wears away the stone.
    Only better.

  4. A bad review is just one person's opinion. A hundred bad reviews means you need a new nom-de-plume.

  5. January 1

    Stop goofing off.
    Yes YOU.

    January 2

    Stop goofing off.
    Yes YOU.

    January 3

    Stop goofing off.
    Yes YOU.


  6. Anonymous7:51 AM

    the complaining can wait. the book cannot.

  7. The page is blank. Fill it.

  8. Words on paper do not clutter your brain.

  9. Anonymous9:15 AM

    I love everyone's, I just laughed out loud. (Good thing the lobby's empty!)

    I want Maggie Jane's calendar. (I *need* it.)

    Mine would say:

    Rome wasn't built in a day, and novels weren't written in one. Get writing.

    Every day is an opportunity. Use it to write.

    Or, yanno, just a giant compilation of other people's brilliant writing quotes.

  10. Anonymous9:20 AM

    A blank page is never really blank. On it is an invitation for you to tell your story, written in invisible ink.

  11. ROFL!! You kill me.

    The best quote for your calendar would be: "After rejection —misery, then thoughts of revenge, and finally, oh well, another try elsewhere." - Mason Cooley

    From me:
    'Where there is writer, there is coffee. Where there is writer + rejection, there is chocolate. (And maybe some ice cream, depending on how bad the rejection was.)'

  12. Anonymous9:34 AM

    She who waits for inspiration gets gray hair.
    *Connie Fused Jones

    Permission to write a million words of crap is granted. Permission to rewrite is not required. It's mandatory.
    *Yadda Yadda Smith

    Writing is like having curly hair in the South. Most days it's unmanageable. When the humidity drops, you rewrite.
    *Aqua Nettie Parton

    Plotting is like a map. Beware: Every highway has at least one hole.
    *Smokey Fuzzola

    I'd better stop. I'm having way too much fun. Yadda Yadda is pointing his finger at me.

    Karen, the lurker

  13. Anonymous9:36 AM

    You can fix a bad page of writing, but you can't fix a blank one.

    As writers, we are God. Unfortunately, all of our characters are atheists.

  14. Anonymous11:27 AM

    February 2 -

    When in doubt, rip it out.

    But put it in a 'cut file' just so you can go to sleep tonight. Trust me, though. In a few days you'll forget the scene's there.

    June 25 -

    Kill your darlings.

    Not the ones asking if you're ever going to cook supper. The ones in the book, silly.

    October 10 -

    Create a verb!

    Someone needs to modify the English language. Might as well be you.

    December 8 -

    Put that manuscript in an envelope and mail it. Today.

    No, not to your mother. Send it to an agent or editor. (Your choice) Yeah, you're scared but suck it up and send it out anyway. Stephen King didn't get where he is by sticking manuscripts in a box under the bed. Neither will you.

  15. The cat is only destroying something that entropy would destroy anyway. Write!

  16. You can add more books to Goodreads when you've written one of your own.

  17. January 1
    The world is a blank page.

    January 2 - December 31

    (Yeah, I guess I had the same idea as charleneteglia and Mary, only later in the day.)

  18. You have no idea how happy I am to learn it's not my big butt in these pants it actually my big soul!

  19. Success: The fortune to be the first persistant fool to twist the knob on a Door of Rejection which some gatekeeper inadvertantly left unlocked.

  20. Story begins in the mind, but ends on paper. :)

  21. When the page is blank, fill it.

    When the mind is blank, bang it against the wall. Something will shake loose.

  22. I write, therefore I am .........


  23. Jan 1: The suspense is killing me too. Start writing.

    Jan 2: Silence is horrible. Start typing.

    Jan 3: Mahjong is not a plotting device.

    This is too much fun. Thanks for another way to procrastinate ;-).

  24. For a horror/fantasy writer:

    October 31 - The ideas, they come.

    November 1 - The ideas, you write.

    November 2 - Dude! Write!

  25. Butt In Chair, maybe, I write

    OMG this is a hoot!

  26. March 6: ...

    So tell me, does this skirt make my soul look big?

    You crack me up. :) Here's mine:

    It is everywhere.

    Deeeeep. :)

  27. The whole world is me? That explains why I never have anything to wear.


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