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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Playing in Traffic

A Zen teacher once compared sitting practice to a busy road.

Before practice, we're standing in the middle of traffic. Cars are swerving and trucks honking and we're hopping from one foot to the other trying to stay alive.We're always one step away from roadkill. It can be overwhelming. Sometimes depressing.


Traffic Jam and Harmonious Car Drivers

But then we sit. We practice to clarify of our life, our understanding. We learn to be present rather than caught up in headlights and shiny colors. And, slowly, our view changes. We see the traffic from above. We see the patterns, of where it's been and where it's going. And the more we practice, the higher our viewpoint becomes.

When I read a novel, my viewpoint is hundreds of feet above the road. My perspective is fresh and new. Pristine. I see the story unfolding and the characters developing. I notice the plot holes and character inconsistencies. I can point out typos. I can tell what needs to change.

As a writer, though, I'm toeing the white line.

All I see are trucks and cars. I smell the exhaust and hear the tires grinding pavement. It's what makes it a joy, but I have no perspective. I'm in the middle of it without a view and that's what makes writing difficult.

These ideas, these characters and stories are in my head and they make perfect sense to me because I can see them and hear them. How can I get you to see and hear them, too? When am I saying too much or not enough? When am I just boring?

Good writers play in the traffic and make it look fun.

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