Results 1 to 12 of 12

Thread: ARTS: Attachment and the Writer's Relationship to Words

Hybrid View

Previous Post Previous Post   Next Post Next Post
  1. #1

    ARTS: Attachment and the Writer's Relationship to Words

    As Buddhists, we try to detach from our thoughts and opinions. However, as writers, we do the opposite. How can we reconcile these views? Or should we?

    This is something I've been thinking about since joining the Treeleaf Arts and Music Circle. I have a lot of failed fiction in my files that I can't seem to throw away. For example, I have a failed novel that I carry with me to each new apartment. I also have successful pieces that I cherish. Even at the sentence level, I have written some beauts that I find hard to let go of in the editing process, even though striking them will make the final piece stronger.

    It strikes me that all writing is a form of attachment.

    What's going on here?

    Gassho,
    Hensho

    Sat
    Last edited by Jundo; 04-26-2021 at 06:19 AM.
    Hensho: Knitting Strands / Stranded on a Reef
    "Knit on with confidence and hope through all crises." -Elizabeth Zimmerman

  2. #2
    I am no writer (even though I somehow wrote a book or two), but for me, it is holding goals and dropping goals at once to write: Of course, I wish to finish in part of my heart, but also my heart is equally filled with "nothing to finish" attitude. Each sentence ... each word ... each letter ... the spaces between letters ... is the whole universe with no before or after. So, I am lightly "attached" to finishing (in the sense that I am working to do it), yet I am also simultaneously free of all attachment.

    The thoughts and emotions encountered in the story are also just like Shikantaza. We encounter them, witness them, express them ... yet see through them too, like the clouds of thoughts and emotions in Shikantaza which are simultaneously the open, boundless, clear blue sky.

    Anyway, that's my way.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 04-24-2021 at 05:37 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3
    I've found my practice has actually helped--not my writing specifically, but by offering a way to think about the editorial process. When we write we give birth, and it's hard as all those tired old saws say, to kill your darlings. In my magazine and newspaper work, I rely on an editor to help me navigate my ego and the place my work might have in their publication, and I give way most readily (most of the time); for fiction and poetry I am much more resistant, and much more likely to cling, much more attached. I presume this has something to do with the nature of the work: In one case I'm writing for pay, doing a job; in the other I'm creating self. Some years ago, I had an editor come back on my first to-be-published long-form piece of poetry and suggest pretty substantial changes to what I was certain was already a strong piece. And it was. But he thought it could be better. He was right, but boy-oh-boy did it take some time to find my path to that. I've slowly come to realize in the context of what we do here (and everywhere) that a good editor--regardless of medium--is a manifestation of our call to let the world be as the world will be, to allow our words to do the work they will do, knowing that sometime that work will not be what we intended or how, and to accept the fact that ultimately our words are just mere glyphs in a bottomless pool of other glyphs, even if they are beautiful.

    Jundo's framing above, of finishing, will now be my go-to when I cannot explain to my self why I can't. In writing, there must also be non-writing.

    Sorry for using so many words, many of which, I felt unable to kill,

    Gassho.

    Peter

    sat
    東西 - Tōsei - East West
    there is only what is, and it is all miraculous

  4. #4
    Thank you all for this thread. As a translator I am sometimes confronted with rigorous editing where I disagree with the editor. Shikantaza has helped me to deal with this by allowing myself to let go where I used to start nitpicking (I still do if I feel the editor is dead wrong). Hensho, I believe writing can actually be a process of letting go rather than a form of attachment. When you publish a book you no longer own it in my opinion. Others have their opinions and might interpret the story differently from what you had intended as a writer, the editor might feel strongly about revising or altering particular passages; the publication starts to live its own proverbial life. And, sometimes, you feel that you might want to make changes yourself after putting the manuscript aside for an extended period because of new insight or a different angle etc. In that sense, even a publication is impermanent.

    Gassho,
    Seibu
    Sattoday/lah

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Seibu View Post
    Thank you all for this thread. As a translator I am sometimes confronted with rigorous editing where I disagree with the editor. Shikantaza has helped me to deal with this by allowing myself to let go where I used to start nitpicking (I still do if I feel the editor is dead wrong). Hensho, I believe writing can actually be a process of letting go rather than a form of attachment. When you publish a book you no longer own it in my opinion. Others have their opinions and might interpret the story differently from what you had intended as a writer, the editor might feel strongly about revising or altering particular passages; the publication starts to live its own proverbial life. And, sometimes, you feel that you might want to make changes yourself after putting the manuscript aside for an extended period because of new insight or a different angle etc. In that sense, even a publication is impermanent.
    For many years, I was a freelance translator. Now I'm a freelance writer. I have two rules about being a freelancer that have held me in good stead over the 25 years I've been doing this work:

    1. Never miss a deadline.
    2. Never argue with your editors.

    The second is especially important. When I send a text off to an editor, it's no longer mine. But in exchange, I get money. Then I move on to the next.

    This said, when I've translated books, where my name appears below that of the author, I do sometimes disagree with what editors suggest.

    Gassho,

    Ryūmon

    sat
    -----

    流文

    I know nothing.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Hensho View Post
    As Buddhists, we try to detach from our thoughts and opinions. However, as writers, we do the opposite. How can we reconcile these views? Or should we?

    This is something I've been thinking about since joining the Treeleaf Arts and Music Circle. I have a lot of failed fiction in my files that I can't seem to throw away. For example, I have a failed novel that I carry with me to each new apartment. I also have successful pieces that I cherish. Even at the sentence level, I have written some beauts that I find hard to let go of in the editing process, even though striking them will make the final piece stronger.

    It strikes me that all writing is a form of attachment.
    You're not attached to the words. You're attached to your failure. You're attached to your success. You're attached to your emotions, ideas, stories, and as a writer, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. However, I think it's important to recognize what's good and bad. However2, sometimes what with think is a failure will please other people; and vice versa.

    Gassho,

    Ryūmon

    sat
    -----

    流文

    I know nothing.

  7. #7
    Hi Hensho, Tai Shi here, more than five years ago at our Jukai ceremony I received the Dharma name calm poetry. As a trained free verse poet I've written much throwing some away, also saving some in informal notebooks and in more formal published writing. In Writing Theory I learned artistic writing may be the center of all writing; in these highly specialized advanced classes, poetic audience falls away. Surtras and verses might also be like this. Maybe look over writhing before tossing. I regret throwing some work into the waste can. Now I begin to see what calm might mean. After sitting with three Sangha formally and alone there might be some patience. I see a paradox. I seem a bit calmer.
    Gassho
    sat/ lah
    Tai Shi
    Last edited by Tai Shi; 04-28-2021 at 04:03 PM. Reason: spelling, lots, including dyslexia., I edit.
    ...Thought and action/ your life would never experience, (even before you were born), But he also being the Devine Cannot, He etched every moment of your existence, With His own hand... Haifiz

  8. #8
    Perhaps attachment is sometimes okay? There are so many attachments. Attachment to words, phrases, characters, subplots, ideas, to writing something someone will read, to writing something good, to writing something marketable, to writing something important, to writing something that will make me rich and famous etc. etc. that letting go of one attachment strengthens our attachment to another. In that place of awareness “Oh yeah, I’m really attached to this,” we are already in a place where we can start to let go of our attachment to not being attached?

    Kenkū

    Sat & lah.

  9. #9
    Member Seikan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2020
    Location
    Massachusetts, United States
    This is a great topic. I agree that some form of healthy "attachment" to our words is a natural part of the writing process. That said, I take different approaches depending on my end goal. If I am writing for work, I have learned to do my part and let it go with no fear of the "red pen" of editing from others that review/approve my work. That is actually much easier than when I write for myself (mostly poetry), as I am my own worst critic. It is difficult to let go of my attachment to the underlying concept, as that is what fuels my attempt to frame it with words. However, I've slowly been learning to let the words themselves flow more spontaneously, and in doing so, I've been able to break away from some of my "go to" phrasings, and other such attachments to diction, etc. That has been quite liberating.

    On another note, I've also been considering my attachment to my poetry in terms of how it is sent out into the world (so to speak). I used to think that submitting to, and being published in traditional literary journals, etc. was the best way to distribute my work and "make a name" for myself. However, that process is quite tedious with no guarantee that one's work will ever been seen by anyone. As my goal is becoming more to simply share my work with others in the hope that it may resonate with someone here and there, I'm leaning more toward just publishing my work via social media, etc. and "let it fly" on its own. I no longer really want to "gain" anything from publication, I simply want to share.

    I'll sit (and write) with this discussion in mind some more, as it has helped shine a light on yet another aspect of life that needs to be seen clearly for me. Thank you Hensho and all for the thought-provoking discussion.

    Gassho,
    Seikan

    -stlah-
    聖簡 Seikan (Sacred Simplicity)

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Seikan View Post
    This is a great topic. I agree that some form of healthy "attachment" to our words is a natural part of the writing process. That said, I take different approaches depending on my end goal. If I am writing for work, I have learned to do my part and let it go with no fear of the "red pen" of editing from others that review/approve my work.
    Long ago, I realized the two most important things to do to be a successful freelance writer. The first is to never miss a deadline. And the second is to never argue with an editor. I hadn't realized that this second is, in effect, a total lack of attachment to the words I write (for money). It has served me well over the years, because I just don't care what happens to my professional writing after I send it off.

    To be fair, when I go over edits, if an editor has changed something that I disagree with, rather than just the words or phrases used, then I'll comment or change it back. An example: an article about photography I wrote recently, that has just been published. The editor put in something saying that I did a certain thing when I took photos, which wasn't entirely true (but could have been assumed from the rest of the article). So I corrected it and he was very happy that I did.

    Gassho,

    Ryūmon

    sat
    -----

    流文

    I know nothing.

  11. #11
    I even have only once been published in a famous Literary Journal. All the rest were in smaller college and university and amateur presses. Iím sorry I stoped publishing my poems in journals. It might have been more than a good day to receive an acceptance to a journal. I turned to vanity publishing of my beautiful books. Itís doubtful that unless you are TS Eliot or Robert Frost or Galway Kinnel you can even gain a look at the big magazines. I chose rather to make my art, photographs and poems, in books. This is an expensive proposal at best just a look from friends. I was lucky to be on the board of NAMI South Dakota so my first book showed some a way out of their mess and I sold quite a few. With the second I sold just a few. Although it was a much better book, the second had no proofreading so was caught in mistakes. This third book will have no pictures. I wish to focus on my poetry and you may think this less artistic. However, in my life itís always been the printed work for posterity. This too will be self publishing think of Walt Whitman printing 1000 copies of the first edit of Leaves of Grass, one of the two most important poets in America the other beautiful poems of Emily Dickinson these two poets the most influential in the 20th Center thence coming Black and minority poetry, these are the most important content to American letters. The greatest America has to offer.
    My poems pale in the reading of genius. Following no other great contribution TS Eliot being primarily British.
    So I feel vindictive in my self published as you might say if you are careful.
    Gassho
    sat: lah
    Tai Shi


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    ...Thought and action/ your life would never experience, (even before you were born), But he also being the Devine Cannot, He etched every moment of your existence, With His own hand... Haifiz

  12. #12
    I agree that writing for work is easy to let go. It gets revised and word-smithed by so many people that there is no need to be attached to it. Nothing I write for work is an expression of my innermost self, so nothing to long for, nothing to hold back.

    My creative writing, however, is driven by an entirely different force. When it's really good, when I'm really cooking, I am writing even when I'm sleeping. What I mean is, it is all consuming--but in a good way. When I am not typing, my unconscious mind is working on the story or essay, and it is hard to say when the writing begins and ends. It is a Way. And there is no duality. I am the writing.

    Maybe that's why I become attached.

    Gassho,

    Hensho
    satlah
    Hensho: Knitting Strands / Stranded on a Reef
    "Knit on with confidence and hope through all crises." -Elizabeth Zimmerman

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •