May 4, 2012

The Mindful Writer, by Dinty Moore



Writers are like prospectors or trappers or pioneers.  They spend their time in the wilds of the mind panning for gold, trapping beaver, or plowing the soil in order to transmute this raw material into something useful, intellectual bounty.

As such, we’re out here in the boondocks.  Sure, our families are with us and we have day jobs, but when it comes to our driving force, our raison d’etre, we are alone in the howling wilderness.

That’s why it’s so important to have touchstones of some sort.  We need somehow to be able to commune with others of our kind.  We need inspiration and support, someone telling us that we’re not crazy and what we do is not only valuable but invaluable.

What better touchstone, then, than this lovely little book ~ The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life, by the fabulous Dinty W.Moore.  I read through it in one evening and will be rereading it again and again. In it, Dinty brings together his Buddhist practice of mindfulness with the art of writing.  It fits so very well, too. 

He takes the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism and transposes them for writers.  Here they are:
  • The writing life is difficult, full of disappointment and dissatisfaction.
  • Much of this dissatisfaction comes from the ego, from our insistence on controlling both the process of writing and how the world reacts to what we have written.
  • There is a way to lessen the disappointment and dissatisfaction and to live a more fruitful writing life.
  • The way to accomplish this is to make both the practice of writing and the work itself less about ourselves. To thrive, we must be mindful of our motives and our attachment to desired outcomes.

The rest of this small but powerful book takes quotes from writers and expounds on them as they pertain to mindfulness.  It is in four parts ~ the writer’s mind, the writer’s desk, the writer’s vision, and the writer’s life. 

Such great quotes and such insightful commentary! Some of my favorites concretize writing with lovely little metaphors or similes:

“What crazies we writers are, our heads full of language like buckets of minnows standing in the moonlight on a dock.”  ~ Hayden Carruth
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ~ Anton Chekhov
“Writing is the hardest way of earning a living with the possible exception of wrestling alligators.” ~ William Saroyan

But they’re all good, and oh I am in love with Dinty’s soft voice, with its ever-encouraging words. 

How many ways can I say it?  This is an inspirational book ~ what it lacks in size, it makes up for in metaphorical weight.

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