Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was born today in 1900.
You know him. He was the aviator/author who wrote THE LITTLE PRINCE. But he wrote an earlier book that spoke of the philosophy in living an awake life, WIND, SAND, AND STARS.
Published as the world slid into WWII, it was greeted as “a beautiful book, and a brave book …
a book that should be read against the confusion of this world.”
The anecdotal-autobiographical essays are inspired by Saint-Exupéry’s experiences as a pilot with the Mediterranean air mail service before World War I, through to the Spanish Civil War :
"One day, on the Madrid front, I chanced upon a school that stood on a hill surrounded by a low stone wall some five hundred yards behind the trenches.
A corporal was teaching botany that day. He was lecturing on the fragile organs of a poppy held in his hands.
Out of the surrounding mud,
and in spite of the wandering shells that dropped all about,
he had drawn like a magnet an audience of stubble-bearded soldiers who squatted tailor fashion and listened with their chins in their hands to a discourse of which they understood not a word in five.
Something within them had said: “You are but brutes fresh from your caves.
Catch up with humanity!”
And they had hurried on their muddy clogs to overtake it.
It is only when we become conscious of our part in life, however modest, that we shall be happy…."
What does this have to do with the Zen of Writing?
The blank computer screen that mocks you when your muse is silent? It is not a hindrance. It is your window ... to your inner self ... to your bruised soul.
You are an artist. Words are your paints. The keys on the computer are your brushes.
Your pain is the ink that your page has been needing. Dip your brush into it. Paint what you feel, what you see ... in the minds of your characters, in the world you have created.
Speak aloud the last paragraph slowly. Hear it with the ears of a stranger. Polish the rough edges of the prose which grated upon those ears.
Lay the bones of your plot before your mind's eye like some Zen garden of stones and sand. Shift the patterns. Is the plot predictable? What would shake it up? How would your characters respond to that twist? How could you make your readers laugh about that?
The world is pain. Sometimes we feel as if we will choke on it. Your readers, too. Make them laugh in the midst of your characters' pain, and they will re-read your book over and over again.
The Zen of Writing : be the author your heart says you are.
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