Here I am starting to write a story I’m calling Beginnings. This is the beginning of the story. Or is it a story? Maybe this is a musing. Maybe, probably, when I have the first draft written, I’ll rewrite this beginning and then the beginning will be a resuming.
Why do I want to write something called Beginnings? Because spring has sprung! The apple trees are just beginning to leaf out. The chard and collards and lettuce babies are emerging from soil in which I planted seeds from packets promising lettuce, collards, and chard.
Yesterday I planted potatoes and sugar snap peas, while all around me the Japanese maples were disporting new leaves, the bare branches bare no more.
When I used to help people with their writing, I discovered beginning was difficult for most of them. They kept trying to figure out what they were going to write before they wrote anything, as if writing was akin to building something, and one had to conceive of something and then design the thing and then figure out the dimensions and secure the necessary building materials, and then begin constructing (writing) whatever the thing was.
They were afraid they might make mistakes. I told them they couldn’t make mistakes; that the rough draft is anything that wants to come out, including random words, sentence fragments, nonsense, doodles, gibberish. Anything. Alas, school and society and parents and silly books about writing taught them otherwise. They believed fiercely in wrong and right and good and bad. They felt they might be punished for something they wrote. They were stymied by lies they’d been told and believed.
So I invented a whole bunch of exercises to trick them into starting to write, and then I’d have them quickly make changes to what they’d written so they had no time to get attached to their creations; and in this way they experienced writing without expecting anything except the experience of doing some writing.
I was tempted to compare writing to meditation, but I didn’t want to confuse my writers with comparisons and abstractions. They needed basic training, not poetical philosophizing. However, today, as I’m in the midst of expanding my daily meditation practice, I understand the purpose of meditation is to meditate, not to get something from meditating. Hoping to get something from meditating creates an obstacle that gobbles up many minutes better spent meditating instead of hoping. The same is true for writing. Hoping to get something from writing creates an obstacle to writing.
This article is a meditation of sorts, except I’m thinking as I write. In meditation, thinking is something to become aware of and let go of. Non-attachment to what comes up is the essence of meditation, which is true of writing, too. Had I been attached to a certain idea about where this musing should go, I might never have veered off into talking about meditation.
Everything changes. The tiny lettuce and chard and collard plants – little leaves collecting sunlight to empower the growth of secondary leaves – will soon be mature plants destined for our digestive systems and a return to non-being.
The first sentence of this piece – Here I am starting to write a story I’m calling Beginnings. – is no longer true. Now the truth is: There I was starting to write something I’m still currently calling Beginnings, though who knows what the title will be when I finally post the piece, if I post this.
Simply begin. Now begin again. All our beginnings will merge into a flow that is the process. When we meditate, ideas and images and feelings and sensations arise and dissolve, are born and die. Writing is a process of writing down what arises, and once the words are written, they vanish for the time being, and maybe forever if we don’t revisit them. If we get attached to something we’ve written while we’re writing, the flow of words will slow and tangle and stop.
The first draft, the beginning, springs from seeds that sprout underground and send forth shoots growing up through the soil and emerging into air and sunlight.