Thursday, July 5, 2007

Eyes on the Real Prize

It's Thursday, right?

I'm just checking. As a writer working at home, I'm never quite sure of the day, date, year.

Just so you'll know--I'm not quite as normal as I look, but then, who is?

I love all things "woo," for instance. Partly, because I love surprises and shivers, but mostly because I'm fascinated by consciousness, including "un," "sub," "trans," and any other.

I pay attention to my dreams, and for quite practical reasons. One of them saved my life. Another one stopped me from working for crooks. Then there was the one that freed me from the most paralyzing writer's block I ever had.

I also use any technique I can find to discover what's going on beneath my own surface. In that regard, my favorite tool is the I Ching, Ye Olde Chinese Book of Changes. It's known as an oracle, but I rarely use it to predict the future. I used to, but eventually it balked and refused to co-operate, seeming to suggest that such a use was, ultimately, beneath its dignity and mine. So I use it sometimes, not to ask what will happen, but to ask what lesson I can learn, to ask for guidance, even to get hints about my plots and characters. I think that what I actually find out from it is what I'm really thinking way down deep.

So. . .this morning I used the I Ching in the link to the right to ask if there was anything the sages would like to remind me of today.

Here's what it said:

If one does not count on the harvest while plowing,
Nor on the use of the ground while clearing it,
It furthers one to undertake something.

And here's why that meant something to me. . .I've been so stuck at the midway point in my book. So stuck. And the main reason is that I've been intimidated by the success of my last book. Everybody says it's the best thing I've done. As it happens, I agree with them. :) So now what? How can I do better than my best? The I Ching reminds me to stop worrying about the "harvest." Just plow, dammit, plow. Don't even think about anybody ever reading it, much less paying me for it, or giving me awards for it, or whatever form a harvest might take. Just write. Just plow.

In a comment this morning, jen said, "I seriously doubt I'll ever publish any of my novels; I just write because I love how it feels."

I'd like to think she's wrong about that never publishing thing, but the point here is that she's not counting on a harvest. She's just plowing, maybe because she loves the sun on her hands and the sweat on her back and the look of the furrow.

I think I'll go have me a plowman's lunch, and then get back out into the fields.


T.J. MacGregor said...

Ah, Nancy Pickard, who understands the I Ching better than Jung did!

Nancy P said...

Blush! Jung would beg to differ, I'm sure. I got to the I Ching through him, did you, Trish?

Catharine said...

I love that, I think that harvest idea is true for some of my issues too.

It seems like staying too focused on "being thin" could make it hard to lose weight.

But I can see that your I Ching site is WAY over my head. Is there a book on I Ching for dummies?

Catharine said...

(Hey! What's the deal with the games Link!!)


Jen said...

Skin cancer genes! No sun on me until they make SPF 4000! Heh, you know I can't resist the wiseassery, but the truth is that I share a lot of your perspective on these things.

Happy plowing! (I hope someday I get the chance to say this to you in some context where clueless people who overhear it think we're talking about something dirty.)

Family Man said...

Hi Nancy.

My old German landlady taught me about loving whatever job you're doing when she came up to help me wash all my windows one day. The first one she did, I could see her looking at it over and over. When she was satisfied with it, she left that window with a big smile and started on another one.

I think you're right in it's more the loving what you're doing, while you're doing it.

Nanette said...

This is funny. When I was writing my other comment I was thinking "but what I really want to ask about is the I Ching" - then decided I would wait til you'd been operational for a bit before doing so.

I too love all things "woo", but also as mostly sort of um... optional signposts on the way to figuring out both what I want to do and what I should do and how they match up.

Mind you, I don't do I Ching or astrology or anything like that (mostly cuz I know little about any of it) but I find sometimes "woo" in synchronicity or stray points of unrelated conversation and lots of things!

Like this:

If one does not count on the harvest while plowing,
Nor on the use of the ground while clearing it,
It furthers one to undertake something.

I have a big picture sort of brain which is not very good at details or step by step stuff (to get to the big picture) and that is sometimes distressing! I even made a silly little picture to illustrate my feeling a week or so ago. Because, of course, things look way big unless you break them off into smaller chunks and just concentrate on those - on the plowing instead of on the harvest, as it says.

One of course *knows* this, intellectually, but still. Knowing something and being able to use that knowledge one's self are sometimes two different things.

Ahem. I sometimes blab a bit in comments, as you can see ;).

T.J. MacGregor said...

I think it was Jung who led me to the Ching, Nance. I love that free I Ching site you linked to! & yarrow sticks, no less.

Nancy P said...

Pops in to say: I'm writing, I'm writing!! It's working, this eyes on the ground business. Two scenes I truly loved writing, and with no idea if they'll find a place in the book.

Oh, how I love your comments.

Nancy P said...

Cathy. . .I know you're halfway kidding, but I'll bet there is an I Ching for dummies book. I'll keep an eye out. And the games, lol, are because I just love that site where you can get 60 minutes of free play on a multitude of games. So far, it has been trustworthy and spam free, except for a single email once a week.

jen. . .lol!

family man. . .I love your story about the window cleaner. What a perfect story. I'll remember it. Thanks.

Nanette. . .too funny about the "coincidence"! Yeah, I think that I Ching reading is all about the small pictures instead of the big ones. The step by step, bird-by-bird kind of day. You've read the Annie Lamot book, right?

trish. . .yarrow sticks, I know!! Too cool.

Nancy P said...

Nanette, I love your "silly little picture." Some days feel just like that. Thanks to the Ching and everybody's comments, this day feels blessedly "flatter."

Catharine said...

Hi Nancy, No -- I wasn't kidding at all. Ah...Not for dummies. For Idiots. Complete Idiots.

I'll try to talk someone around here into buying one of them.

Meanwhile, I just got a copy of Lean, Mean Thirteen! Poor Stephanie seems to get dummer and dummer with each book.

Man Eegee said...

I was interviewed recently for a study on latin@ bloggers, and one of the questions asked was, "Why do you blog?"

I answered, "Well, to get the news items out to a wider audience; and occasionally to educate or display a bit of research I've done....but ultimately it's about having fun wielding a digital pen."

It wasn't until the latter part of that answer came out of my mouth that I realized I needed to re-center on the "plowing" too, which caused a huge break in my writers' block. Ahhh, serendipity

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

A few years ago I was on the ferry to Nantucket.

I was inside the ferry, on a bench. It was blustery and cold and not fun to be outside.

I saw a moth, fluttering madly at the window. Throwing itself aginst the pane. Wildly. Frantically.
I said to it --okay, not out loud, but, you know, the way you would talk to a moth:

"Moth, moth. You're on the ferry to Nantucket. You're going to get to Nantucket if you freak out. You're going to get to Nantucket if you relax and enjoy the ride. Your call."

Now whenever I feel like freaking out over a rough patch in writing, I say to myself "Moth, moth." And I relax.

You'll get there. Wherever it is you're going. Don't you always?

Richard said...

Oh Nancy, I cannot wait for the harvest.
Mary Alice

Nancy P said...

Oh, how I already love this blog o' mine!

Moth, moth! Hank phillippi ryan, I love that, and will think of it often--because I am often often that moth, moth. There is, to that, a feeling of patting one's own back in reassurance and comfort, I think. There is also the underlying message that, hey, you think you don't want to be in here? Try out there, and find out what "cold" really means!

Thank you for coming by, and please do come back. Your group blog of writers, and your own site, both look wonderful.

Nancy P said...


I hope you're well as can be--and that your most recent festival was the best yet. Wish I'd been there to give you a (tender, careful) hug.

Hi,Richard. :)


Nancy P said...

We lovvves, serendipity, we does.

Man E, that's a very clever "letter" at the end of latin@. I'm guessing it stands for either male or female? Has that been around for a while, or did you create that your own brilliant self?

Nanette said...

I'm glad you like my silly little picture, Nancy! When all else fails I find that messing around with creating graphics helps me avoid the other stuff I need to do ;).

No, I've not read the Anne Lamott book yet, or anything else of hers besides articles here and there. Although I keep meaning to, because I like what I have read of her writing.

I will put that down on my list of things to read, along with the I Ching for Dummies book, which I too sorely need.

Nanette said...

"moth, moth". Heh, I'll have to remember that one. How perfect is that?

Nancy P said...

Nanette, you've given me all the excuse I need to retell the story of the title of the Annie Lamott book, which is Bird By Bird.

When her little brother was l0, he was supposed to write a paper about a lot of birds. Naturally, he put it off til the night before it was due.

He sat at the kitchen table in despair, in tears.

Their father, who was a writer, himself, knelt down beside the boy, put an arm around him, and said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird." And that's what the boy did, and the paper got finished.

Moth, moth.

Bird by bird.

Window by window.

Furrow by furrow.

Why is this so hard to learn!!!!


Nancy P said...

Oh, cool! Maria Y Lima says I can out her, too. She's another of our incredibly talented visitors, a novelist with a talent dear to my own warped heart--she writes about vampires and other Night Bumpers. Maria and I first "met" on a Buffy the Vampire Slayer Blog, where we reluctantly shared Spike (if you have to ask. . .) with other Buffy fanatics.

I'll link to her website, which has the BEST name of all.

Nancy P said...

Well, finally! I figured out how to remove 1961 as my mysterious birthdate.

Man Eegee said...

I wish my cleverness was that potent but alas, the use of the @ is something that has become viral online. I've been infected beyond cure. Gotta love multi-cultural political correctness :)

Catharine said...

Wow, take one teensy nap and this whole place goes crazy!

(Nanette, thank you! I was afraid I was the only I-Ching-Free girl in the room)

(Nancy, I never thanked you for the book offer: Thank You! Now I really can't wait to read it)

And now I'm off to follow the link to Maria's site.

-katiebird/Cathy....why can't I be katiebird anymore?

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Plowing is essential to break the ground, without which nothing can be put to grow. A good goal to keep your eye on the point of the plow, as it always faces forward (unless you're doing it wrong!).

Flaubert used to compose in his gueuloir (roughly translated as shouting space) and declaim each sentence fastidiously until he got to the right timbre. You could try that sometime and see how that goes, lol. Seriously though, if I can ever master his economy of language, I can die a happy man.

Nancy P said...

IVG said. . .if I can ever master his economy of language, I can die a happy man.

Okay, well, we have mixed feelings about that! On the other hand, Maria could "write you," and let us know how happy you are. :)

And g'morning.

FARfetched said...

I have to agree, people overcomplicate the I Ching and other methods for getting in touch with the ol' sub-concious. All of those techniques, including meditation, are simply ways to get around the roadblocks your inner critic puts between your imagination and your keyboard.

There's Unix source code for an I Ching generator and interpreter out on the nets somewhere; Mac users could run it in Terminal. I might have to dig it up some time.

Maria said...

we reluctantly shared Spike

Hmm, not so sure about this "sharing" business.... ::g::

Thanks for the outing, Nancy!

Nancy P said...

far, that's a very good way to put it.

Maria, you're welcome. . .and, yeah, that sharing business sucks. So to speak. :)