What Is The Tao?
In its most basic definition, The Tao is natural law, or how things happen. It can also be described as a way of life, or how to live in conscious harmony with the natural law. With this description in mind, I wanted to explore The Tao further as to how it could be applied to the art of writing with its similar characteristics of flow, simplicity, creation, and discovery, hence the title, The Tao of Writing.
Stop The Perfection and Just Write
Quite opposite to The Tao would be any kind of restriction, whether that show itself as our own self-inflicted boundaries of expression (what we will not say), old programs from school on how writing must be approached and executed – with rules, structure, grammar, proper sentences, and punctuation etc. – or, perhaps the most restrictive of all, our inner demons of fear, perfection, and self-doubt. I know in my own experience, I do battle with all of these demons, until I begin with that first, single word and start writing. Just like the wind blowing through a pinwheel, something begins to move and the words begin to flow.
Writing Requires The Gift of Spaciousness
I love these two riddles from The Tao that speak of the importance of having empty space in our lives.
Hollowed out, clay makes a pot.
Where the pot’s not is where it is useful.
Cut doors and windows make a room.
where the room isn’t, there’s room for you.
Writing requires spaciousness in order for ideas to percolate, breathe, and expand into its fullest creative potential. If we are living a life jam-packed with stuff, endless doing, and non-stop thinking, that doesn’t give us much space to simply sit back, enjoy a coffee, go for a walk, breathe deeply, feel the sensation of the sun on our face, contemplate life, or simply relax.
Writing Is Birthed in the Act of Writing
Writing is an immense, redeeming force that can free us from the shackles that lock us so painfully in place at times, but it can never set us free if we don’t actually sit ourselves down and begin the act of writing. Just as the famous line from The Tao states, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” or as it applies to writing, “the journey of writing a book (article, blog, letter) begins with a single word.” When we release that first, single word we often set in motion a flood of creativity, the very life force of Existence itself that was just waiting for us to take one, small action causing a wave of fresh, new creative energy to wash through us.
Writing Is Not Separate from the Rest of Existence
I’ve always felt that writing, like The Tao, was about flow, and if that is the case, then how can this flow, or creative process, be something that is separate from the rest of the Universe? Many writers tend to separate their work from the very root and guts of Existence, following the ‘rules of writing’ rather than the natural laws of the ever present Is-ness.
The Zone of ‘Is-ness’
The following quote is such a great example of what ‘being in the flow’ is like and how it works. I like to use the word ‘Is-ness’ while the author uses the word ‘thusness.’ The quote is referring to the art of painting, though the same principle applies to any act of artistic expression. The author was speaking of how she was able to begin painting again after a long spell of creative drought.
“There was also another reason why it was now possible to paint. It was because there was one central fact that made it seem worthwhile going on, whatever the objective value of the pictures to other people. It was that I had discovered in the painting a bit of experience that made all other occupations unimportant by comparison. It was the discovery that, when painting, something from nature occurred, at least sometimes, a fusion into never-before-known wholeness; not only were the object and oneself no longer felt to be separate, but neither were thought and sensation and feeling and action towards it, the movement of one’s hand together with the feeling of delight in the ‘thusness’ of the thing, they all seemed fused into a wholeness of being which was different than anything else that had ever happened to me.” -Marion Milner, On Not Being Able To Paint
Transcendence & The Tao of Writing
This state of ‘thusness’ or ‘Is-ness’ can often be felt as transcendence, a state whereby we have left the rational, intellectual, calculating, and analyzing mind behind and are quite literally free falling into a state of grace as something flows effortlessly through us and onto the page. This can be likened to what The Tao refers to as the Un-Nameable state, suggesting that the moment we try and name or describe it, it becomes separated from itself. The Tao, or the Un-Nameable is unity – borderless, boundless, and eternal and when we can write from that placeless place, we have found the gold.
With Practice Comes Depth
The more we practice the art of writing, the more we actually learn to love the act of writing itself and come to realize that writing is not something geared only to experts and brainy intellectuals. We see that the more comfortable we become with the natural flow of writing, the more we are able to tap into and express the deep wellspring of feeling within us all. If we attempt to force our writing, (stop the flow) it’s pretty much guaranteed that we will end up with material bordering on a barren wasteland of empty words and meaningless, shallow content.
The Tao of Writing Blesses Everyone
In conclusion, The Tao is in everything and is that which creates and nourishes us. It also blesses everything to follow nature’s way and diminishes no one and nothing as a result. When we take this principle and apply it to our writing process, it becomes abundantly clear as to the benefit and ripple effect this kind of writing can have on others, as it has been birthed from the very center of All That Is.
How Can I Help You?
I love to hear from you with your comments or questions. If you have any, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section below and I will respond ASAP.
Wishing you much love and happy writing,