Saturday, May 12, 2012

Don't Think

"Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can't try to do things. You simply must do things."
- Ray Bradbury, Writer

Most of us have heard elite sportspeople talk about being "in the zone" when they are performing at their best. They usually mean an effortless state in which their mind is free of distracting thought, where they are in the present moment, where nothing else intrudes, not even themselves.
The painter Claude Monet said that he tried not to think while he was painting - just to see.
While we can easily understand that the idea of doing things in a state of thoughtless awareness works for physical activities (which painting could be classified under), it's harder to imagine this being possible for writers. 
To all you writers out there, all I would say is: try it; see if it works.
Naturally, the making of great books - like anything else - also requires years of hard work, practise and training, as Ray Bradbury would be the first to point out. "The Zone" does not make itself available to the lazy.

Thanks to Mark for suggesting this post.


Mark said...

Thanks for the post! For me this is the heart of the 'spiritual' life. 
Whenever I hear great Buddhist speakers (or any other great speaker) im always amazed with their fluency of thought. The eloquence that they bring without using notes or script.
This subject reminds me of 'Zen and the art of motorcycle mantanence'. Where the author defined the non dualistic connection between the creator and the creation as the thing that brings about 'quality'. 
I think you are correct when you say that to achieve that sense of connection, normaly we must practise with dedication.

jeronimus said...

Hi Mark.
It does seem a bit scary - the idea of writing without thinking. Sort of like letting go of the fence at the ice rink.
It's said that Self-realisation or connectedness happens spontaneously, instantaneously and effortlessly: and while this is no doubt true, those who have achieved it have probably taken many lifetimes of dedication to prepare themselves for it.

Jared Levenson said...

Wow, this is a really cool blog. I just saw the Ray Bradbury quote and it really clicked with me. I'm an avid chess player and recently I realized I had to simply play chess instead of thinking and playing chess. I've seen the quality of my game improve since then. It's like what Yoda said..."Do or do not, no try." Anyways, thanks for sharing, I will further share this quote and discuss it with others later on in the week.

jeronimus said...

Thanks Jared.
I have tried the no thinking thing with my painting and other things, and have found a huge improvement. Listening to the right kind of music helps too.
I was badly losing a game of Monopoly a few years ago, and decided I would just get into a detached non-possessive Buddhist attitude about it, and "I" ended up winning, to everyone's amazement.