I used to meditate a lot. Go on meditation retreats; meditate in the morning for twenty minutes. In the evening for another twenty minutes. Then I don’t know why but I stopped meditating for some time.
Maybe my life got too busy. Maybe I was too much in a hurry to start the chaos of my day. Maybe I convinced myself that yoga practice was the same as meditation.
But two Fridays ago I attended a meditation session with Grace Bubeck. Grace is one of these women who instills calmness in you. She carries well her name.
We were a small group and started by saying what was on our minds that evening. I was thinking about my writing, going back to the crime novel after spending so many months on The Dating Club novel , which has no crime in it unless one metaphorically takes the abandonment of a daughter as a crime.
So, I started to say how I didn’t know how to approach this novel, A Simple Act of Love. It’s not as if I was starting from scratch. This is a novel I have been working on and off for years. I didn’t know if I could pull it off. What I mean by that is that if I could write the kind of crime novel that floats in my imagination. The kind of novel that is about relationships and love and happens to have a crime in it. A crime novel like The Silent Wife.
I wasn’t sure that I had what it took to transpose what was in my head to paper. Nor did I think I had the motivation to go back to it and edit it.
After everyone had said what was on their minds that evening, Grace rang her meditation bell and we fell into silence. Even after so many months away from meditation, I found it easy sitting for twenty minutes. In fact, it felt good. I was allowing myself to do nothing (although meditation is really not about doing nothing).
After the first twenty minutes, we talked again about our experience. Mine was mostly about how I had left meditation.
The second part of meditation was a Heart Meditation. Grace told us to let everything in. Everything is all part of who we are. Just to welcome whatever comes with an open heart.
At first, my meditation started on the rosy road. I was meditating about being confident and passionate about my writing. Yes, that’s what I needed. Passion. Then fear snuck in. Telling me that maybe I couldn’t pull it off. That I might not have the talent. The stamina. You know.
So I did what Grace had instructed. I expanded my heart and let the fear in and an insight occurred. I could write with fear and just that realization made the fear dissipate or turn into confidence, I’m not sure which. I knew that although there was still work that had to be done on my manuscript I’d done a lot of it.
Now I needed to take the scalpel to it. I needed to cut out the fluff. To cut out what I need to know but the readers don’t.
The next day I had this in my e-mail http://callumjhackett.com/2013/11/20/a-writer-and-a-physicist-talk-creativity/
When talking about their approaches to writing or scientific problems, they shared in many artists’ feelings that it’s easier to know what’s wrong with something than it is to know what would be right. Creative success doesn’t arrive as the proverbial flash of revelation, it uncovers itself gradually in the editing process – you start by constructing a deformed version of your ideal then identify what’s wrong with it and try out as many alternatives as necessary until, almost by a process of elimination, the most elegant form presents itself. Importantly, this is true of modes of thinking in general, not just of the arts, as Arkani-Hamed describes:
Creativity doesn’t require a virtuosity capable of instantaneous perfection, it needs a honed sensibility of imperfection so that you can work persistently at alternatives until that sense evaporates and what remains is worth an audience.
I wish you peace, light and gentleness this solstice eve