I seem to be on a bit of a roll here with quoting other writers about writing, so why not continue? This week’s wisdom comes from Peggy Tabor Millin’s book Women, Writing and Soul-Making: Creativity and the Sacred Feminine. I took a class with Peggy about this time last year, so perhaps I’m feeling a little nostalgic. Anyway, here she goes:
“To control your cow, give it a wide pasture.” Shunryu Suzuki’s words, like many Zen masters’ sayings, tell us a great deal about the paradox of being a writer or other creative. Like a cow, our writing needs to be held in a wide space, the size and shape of which only we can determine from our intimate knowledge of its needs. We glean this knowledge by observing ourselves.
… In writing this book, I have discovered that my most fruitful writing time is from ten to twelve in the morning. I can write for about two hours and produce fresh, meaningful prose. Before I begin writing, I meditate, exercise, and structure business or personal items I need to address later in the day. … In the past I attempted to keep a strict first-thing-in-the-morning regimen—mainly because I had read this is how famous—mostly male—writers worked. Although a rigid structure works for me when applied to edits and revisions, I understand now that for my writing to flow, allowing is more important than scheduling.
We are responsible for the care and keeping of our writing. Perhaps one of the hardest things to learn is when the pull away from the process means a need for gestation as opposed to being a distraction from something we want to avoid. The only way to learn this, however, is to write, observe what we do, and listen to our bodies tell us why. … Only we can give ourselves that space.