Monday, July 09, 2007

Sanding, Zen, and Editing

My brother-in-law and I are building a bookshelf for the basement--a very large one that should hold a significant number of the books we have, though even so not all. Right now we're at the point where I'm sanding all the shelves...and sanding is tedious. It's not hard work, not with a power sander, but it's just tedious (actually less so now that I went out and bought coarser disks for the sander to do the initial work...but that's beside the point).

My temptation is to focus on how much more I have to get through, how much longer it's going to be. But you just can't do that, not without driving yourself crazy. I found, though, that if I just let go of that urge to be done, I can do it mindlessly for a while, aware of what I'm doing but without impatience or worrying about anything else. I'm likening that to Zen in the title (disclaimer: I'm no expert in Zen meditation, and I make no claims for the usefulness of power sanding to achieve a higher consciousness ;) --it's merely a comparison to the popular conception of Zen, and I'm sure the Christian mystics and the Muslim Sufis have a similar state, as well as other mystics of any stripe). I can't claim that I'm in this state for long or that even when I'm in it it's a perfect state of bliss or anything of the sort. But...

It got me thinking. I often find editing tedious as well. Not always, but right now I'm looking at a story that I think could be very good...once I get it revised. And I keep putting it off. So I think I need to find some way to get to that same Zen-like state while revising. Who knows, maybe tomorrow I'll come back with a wise koan to help others achieve editing bliss. Not likely--I'll probably get too impatient.

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