I’ve been quiet the past few weeks but now that all the festivities and food are finished, it’s time to get back to work. Writing the novel has resumed and teaching has begun. While working on class notes for this week, I came across a path of thinking that hadn’t occurred to me before. I have long believed in the practice of writing to improve skill and ability. It’s an obvious notion but it is one of the biggest stumbles for people just starting out or for people who believe they’re blocked.
Adding to this idea was a realization of the process that occurs during this action.
I recently finished Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, where one of the narrator’s talks (or chautauquas) focuses on the scientific method of fixing a motorcycle. When faced with the problem, he defines it clearly, offers a hypothesis, tests it, then records the result and buildsfurther hypotheses to test further.
I realized that the practice of writing, clocking hours at the keyboard or on the page, is a simplified version of this process. I have a hypothesis that is a hypothesis of a solution to a vague issue I am having with the piece I am working on. Writing is the testing of that hypothesis and reading the finished work is the considering of the results of that test. It is not a clear vision of a laboratory test but it gives a sense whether or not the vague hypothesis I envisioned worked or not. If it did, great, I add it to my arsenal of skills I continue to build in writing. If not, I consider the problem and return to the start of the method, coming up with a new possible hypothesis to solve the problem.
This way of thinking is consistent with how I’ve been breaking away more and more from the vague mysticism of creativity and art and considering the work of the craftsman as a more appropriate image of myself as a writer. Placing the creative process into the concrete form of scientific method seems more suitable for me.
The more I demystify and engage with the tools the easier it is to hold back the abstract fears that can keep me from doing the work.