2 Jan

When I was an undergrad and did that four month study abroad thing in Kathmandu, we had to get up every weekday morning at seven a.m. and meditate. Now, they don’t just tell you to go and meditate — this shit is guided by people who have some kind of training (which sounds a bit wild, but seriously, it fucks with your head). And, in our cases, people who gave you a grade for turning up. We also had weekly meditation courses in which we talked about the method we were using. We did samata, for anyone to whom it matters — which is the usual starting point before you get into the deeper stuff. There are lots of ways to do it, but it’s the kind where you’re supposed to be perpetually mindful and aware, training yourself to be in the moment. There are lots of different practices and ways of doing it, but that’s the basic idea behind them all.

That sounds simple, but anyone who’s ever tried it knows it’s incredibly fucking hard to keep your mind from wandering while at it, and that’s the whole point. You pretty much have to retrain your brain from scratch. It can be unbearably frustrating to sit there at seven a.m., your brain all prepped from recitation of the Heart Sutra, your back straight, your stomach empty, ready to go when they start burning the incense and ring the little bell.

And you start writing a short story in your head instead of sticking to it.

While this explains why Kathmandu was where I got back into writing after a two year hiatus so I could drink my way through my first few years of undergrad, that’s not the point. The point is that I am temperamental and didn’t take well to the constant — like 100 times in a half hour session — failure of having to remind myself to stop daydreaming. I would get annoyed and ragey and be sitting there on my cushion trying to keep my hands from curling into fists. Now, the moments where it worked, where I was truly just aware of myself and my surroundings, were totally worth it. Which is why I never gave up and in to the daydreaming — as much as daydreaming is my favorite activity ever.

But god, so anger-making. And there’s an urge to berate yourself when you have those days when you can’t get it right, especially for someone with an ugly temper like mine. But the meditation courses prepared us for that eventuality (told you they were useful!). The trick they taught us was to very, very gently cut off any daydreams or trains of thought during meditation with the word: “Thinking”. That’s it. You just remind yourself, “That was a thought, it should stop.” Not, “You fucking idiot, can’t you do anything right?! Stop fucking thinking goddammit! How hard is it to sit here on your ass for a half hour and not be a complete loser?!”

Obviously meditation isn’t just a Buddhist thing or whatever; Buddhists don’t care if you’re Buddhist or not, they’ll still teach you this stuff if you want it. They’re cool that way. But there’s a general emphasis on gentleness in Buddhism that’s extremely appealing. Thing is, you also have to apply it to yourself. And that’s what I remember one instructor in particular saying to us over and over again: “Be gentle with yourself.”

It’s not an easy thing for some. By which I mean me. I frazzled the fuck out of myself several times this year. Partly that’s because when I want things, I can’t be easy unless I’m working toward them. But also it’s because of the stuff I said in that recent Chaos post, about how so much of what happened, particularly in the last half of the year, was so very, very new. And a lot of it was sudden, too. I fucked up a lot of things, I redid a lot of things, I learned several new ways to operate — ways that will take a lot of training and practice to get to the point where they’re natural and non-stressful to me.

Hell, after four months in KTM, I didn’t even hate myself while meditating. If I can do that, I can do anything, I figure. That shit was for real. Ha!

But my resolution is that I’m going to be gentle with myself, this year. This blog doesn’t really reflect the amount of browbeating I do to myself accurately — I try and keep it on the DL until it’s over, then I come here and spit up the fully digested, vaguely more neatly packaged version. But even so, I guess it’s pretty obvious that even when things are in the überawesome zone, I’m kind of a dick to myself. And dude, I just added up all the words I wrote (and didn’t end up deleting — there were lots of those) into novels/novellas this year, and it came to 317,000. I don’t know how it compares to other years, but considering the other crap that went on, fuck it. I’m okay with saying I can be a little nicer, at this point.

So there it is. Let’s see how it holds up.

How ’bout you? Got anything good?

14 Responses to “Resolution”

  1. Meghan January 3, 2012 at 12:24 am #

    And you start writing a short story in your head instead of sticking to it.
    Nature abhors a vacuum… the muses abhor it doubly so.

    my resolution is that I’m going to be gentle with myself, this year
    That has to be one of the best resolutions I’ve ever heard. Although I haven’t really done the resolution thing in years, I might just steal it. My other one is sort of related to your post… to live in the moment. I spend a lot of time looking ahead or behind (maybe that’s natural for artistic sorts?) that often I miss the scenery until it’s in the rearview. Need to be better about that.

    • Katey January 3, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

      Mindfulness is a really, really good resolution. It takes some brain training — but yeah, it’s even worse for the artistic sorts, I reckon. But you can totally do it.

      And you have SUCH good reason to right now. That helps! :D

  2. Aaron Polson January 3, 2012 at 11:15 am #

    Good luck, Katey. It’s going to be a good year.

    • Anthony J. Rapino January 3, 2012 at 11:23 am #

      Good resolution. ;-)

      I don’t make resolutions. Never have. I know I won’t keep them, so I don’t bother. Ha…maybe my resolution should be to have more faith in myself.

      • Katey January 3, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

        The last one I made was to stop explaining why I talk about my characters like they’re real. “Oh, Aldo won’t do this…” or “I can’t convince Madison to do that…”

        Everyone knows why I say it like that. It’s just easier than explaining “Well, their personality dictates that this sort of behavior would be out of line…”

        So I said I wouldn’t pander to jerks, and I haven’t since! This one will be a little harder, but whatever. I can be sweet, dammit. And if I can, I’m SURE you can have some faith. :D

    • Katey January 3, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

      Fingers crossed for everyone.

  3. Cate Gardner January 3, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    I don’t see how anyone can empty their head. It’s impossible. My head is a constant barrage of noise – and yeah, most of it berates me :D

    That’s one heck of a lock of words, Katey

    • Katey January 3, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

      Yeah, that EXACTLY. It’s miserable really. I very nearly went mad training myself to it, but it was pretty sweet when it worked. And helped with the berating :D

  4. Milo James Fowler January 4, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    I can’t let my mind go blank, either. But I’ve heard that’s part of what meditation is about — bringing stuff to the surface that we need to clear out. Could be story ideas, getting them out of hibernation and onto paper/screen!

    I’m looking forward to writing more this year. W1S1 had a whole lot of editing involved last year (the “sub” part kind of demanded it), but 2012 is going to be all about vomiting new stuff onto paper/screen that I can clean up later. And finding homes for 4 novels that have been patiently waiting in the corner for their time to shine.

    May 2012 be your best year of writing yet!

    • Katey January 4, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

      Yeah, that’s precisely why it fucks with your head to do it — it brings eeeeeeverything to the surface and man. I had a serious breakdown and my life was completely easy before then. I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like if I’d had any real problems. Or, I don’t know, done it three years later when I actually did. Yikes.

      I can only imagine how the freedom of one a month after one a week will give you time to take advantage of everything you must’ve gained last year. Lots of editing, but so many lessons.

      Best of luck to you, Milo! I look forward to watching it unfold. :D

      • Pat January 21, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

        But there’s room in your meditation regimen, isn’t there, for not seeking the blank state, for letting the mind go where it will? For not saying ‘thinking’ to yourself, in other words?

        As for resolution: I resolve to tone it down a little this year, by being just a tad less awesome.

        • Katey January 22, 2012 at 11:58 am #

          Ahahaha, sadly, no. Letting my mind go where it will is the rest of my life.

          Don’t be less awesome! We like your awesome :D

  5. Me, myself, and that other one January 11, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    My resolution is to start writing a new book. My editor gets to pick which one of my three proposals is a go, and that won’t happen until after edits are done. Speaking of, finished my line edits … copy edits are next, then galleys, YAY!

    Also, I resolve to finally get back to reading SCRIPPED (you have the most amazing ability to drop me writhing into the tortured skin of your characters. LOVE THAT). I mentioned you and your book in an interview I’m doing. It’s coming out next week … I’ll try to let you know when.

    BTW, I was looking back at some of your other posts I’ve missed. You wrote 317K words last year?? That’s a freaking THREE books in my world. WOW. You have no right to be hard on yourself. You’re my hero. That is all.

    See you soon! And Happy New Year, dear friend!

    • Katey January 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

      You’re awesome, and I seriously thought I responded to this ages ago — see now how I’ve been running around like a headless chicken all month :D

      I cannot WAIT to see what you think of your galleys when they come. I will hear the squee all the way in DC, I think. I neeeeeeeeeeeeed it.


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