Thursday, November 10, 2022

Zen and the Art of Writing While Maintaining Your Sanity

I (Donis) have had 12 novels published during my nearly twenty-year writing career and done pretty well, but I've been having some trouble over the last two years. My two most recent books didn't sell well during the pandemic, so my publisher has decided they don't want to continue with the Hollywood series. Libraries didn't buy the books in any great numbers, they say. Well, duh! The libraries were closed! Annoying in the extreme, since the third novel is finished and if I do say so myself, it turned out quite nicely. I'm currently determining how to get the book published by hook or crook. However, they have encouraged me to start something entirely new. So begrudgingly, I shall.

 I have a couple of good ideas for new books, which cheers me considerably. As with any season of life, you go through your ups and downs, and as my mother always said (and I do mean always), this too shall pass.

For many years now, I have been a student of Zen, which I love, because it’s very helpful at times like these. It’s also pretty funny, and anything that’s pretty funny is okay with me. Years ago, I went to my first meditation retreat with some trepidation, since I had heard that during sitting meditation, the sensei prowls around the room with a long stick and occasionally whacks the hell out of you when you least expect it.  The point of this is to make you be totally in the present, and believe me, when you think you’re about to get smacked at any minute, you actually quiver with awareness. As it turned out, our sensei told us that he quit doing that because his students seemed to enjoy it too much. So I’ve never actually been assaulted while meditating.

I’m sure most of you Dear Readers have heard of koans, such as “what is the sound of one hand clapping,” those apparently senseless little sayings and stories that you can ponder on all day. Here is one of my favorites:

A Zen master was teaching his students when a cat wandered into the room. The master picked up a cleaver and said, “If any of you can tell me the true meaning of existence, I won’t kill this cat.” Not one student said anything, so the master whacked the cat, and his students ran out of the room, horrified. The next day, the master was relating the incident to another sensei. “I said, if any of you can tell me the true meaning of existence, I won’t kill this cat.” The second master sat there for a moment, then hung his shoes on his ears and danced out of the room. As he disappeared, the first master yelled after him, “If you’d been here yesterday, that cat would have lived! (Please don’t get all het up, cat lovers. It didn’t really happen.)

Or how about this one : Two masters were debating which of their teaching methods was best when a disheveled drunk burst into the room, kicked the crap out of the first master, and ran out. “Who was that!”  cried the second master. “That was one of my students,” said the first master. “You win,” said the second master.


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