Friday, December 22, 2006

Filling the Well, Part Two

If we are to wake up from this dream, we must open up and listen to our hearts. – Bhagavan Das

Remember those summer nights long ago, at dusk, when you would stare up at the trees and the darkness grew, and you looked and looked, and the light became strange, and your vision changed, and then you could no longer tell what was leaf and what was sky?

I recently experienced that blissful disorientation again, only in sound. Jenifer and I went to Yoga on Main for a kirtan led by Bhagavan Das. Before I got to that sublime point, however, before chanting "Rama" again and again, I was in the state known as monkey mind. Big time.

In her yoga classes, Jenifer often instructs her students not to feed their monkeys mangoes. We do it all the time, getting caught up in our anxious thoughts, “multi-tasking,” getting attached to results and expectations, not being here, not being now. I was feeding those monkeys as many mangoes as I could, stuffing their fat faces until their bellies were swollen. That poor fellow at the end of Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life had nothin’ on these guys. Oh, I had monkeys, alright, and they were dancing and playing maracas, too. A few of them were hepped up on Jolt, and I think at least one was mainlining epinephrine.

It didn’t matter. When Bhagavan Das ceased chanting and said to meditate, I went straight to that magical elevated place. Whoomp. I was there. In the most pure, concrete, authoritative meditative space I can remember. Clarity. I was a little girl at the Olympics and I’d just stuck my landing. I was Babe Ruth, and my big bat swung and connected ever so perfectly with the little leather ball. But it was more than that.

Imagine you hit that ball and somehow kept hitting it, so that the ball never left your bat, but stayed in contact, inhabiting that sacred sweet spot forever, and that beautiful spring-time CRACK! was drawn out into infinity.

It was something like that. And I was glad for it.

My writing had been sporadic and slow in previous weeks, interrupted by travel, entertaining, and the mother of all job searches. When I was writing, I was fretting about a particularly tricky sequence that opens Act II. When I wasn’t writing, I was fretting about . . . not writing. And the colossal size of the project. As a friend of mine put it, I could have chosen to write a silly little comedy. (Not to denigrate this particular form; I’ve written a couple myself.) But I didn’t write a silly little comedy. I couldn’t. Not this time. And now I know why creative writing instructors don’t look kindly on those who want to try their hand at “genre” work. You are tackling a heck of a lot more than two characters kvetching in a coffee shop. You are tackling two characters haggling over the price of cod. (That was for Tom.)

As another friend put it: “This is far and away your most ambitious project to date.” I knew something was up!

The upshot is that with all my fretting (and some working) I wasn’t allowing myself the things which (a) I wanted to do and (b) would be good for a developing screenwriter to do. Things like watch movies and read scripts.

So the next weekend I did just that. Watched an old movie – Seven Samurai – and a new one – The Fountain. Read an older script – The Godfather – and a newer one – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. (Wanna know something weird? Neither uses FADE IN and FADE OUT. Hmm, learned something already.)

Writing a story is, well, hard, and sometimes doesn’t always, well, flow. I wasn’t burned out on writing, or on my Viking story, but I wasn’t doing much else. Maybe if you’re a 10th-level Paladin wielding straight 18s and a +6 Holy Avenger, bootstrapping is the way to go. If that’s you, just take your Lawful Good self and sidle away peacefully. But for the rest of us, bootstrapping is a short-term solution at best.

You can only push so hard. You need to come up for air. You need to fill the well.

And so a little watching, a little reading, and a little meditating have joined a little writing, and the result is that my monkeys are a little less hyper. I leave you, then, with wishes for a beautiful holiday weekend, the courage to do what you want, the freedom to not write, the mystery of strange lights and stranger sounds.

5 Comments:

Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

And here I thought I was the only one with monkeys. It's all well and good until the poo hurling.

Take time for yourself. Regenerate. Write.

11:42 PM  
Anonymous JIM said...

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.... All goodness come to you and yours.

Love and light, JIM

7:32 PM  
Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

Happy holidays!

12:13 AM  
Blogger Word Imp said...

Thanks for this post Ryan. It has some wisdom for me too. All the best for 2007 - balance is the key for writers. I am heavily into gardening, dirt etc right now and I have a strong sense it's part of the writing process somehow. Not sure how but I don't have to understand all things always. Love the monkeys. I'll put mine on a diet.

5:32 PM  
Anonymous Eric said...

Ahh...yes...filling the well. I will have an essay out on hackwriters.com soon on this subject. The Input/Output Dilemma. The more you fill the well, the more you can pee later...or something like that.

I wasn't feeling my novel, so I started reading and now the ideas are coming hand over monkeyfoot.

2:21 PM  

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