There's a concept in martial arts - specifically in karate - called zanshin. It's a state of awareness, a relaxed alertness. If you employ zanshin, you will always be ready to react. It's a concept I try my best to bring out of the dojo and into my everyday life. We must always be ready, even when we're at rest. Ready for anything. Because life throws up surprises all the time, and control is an illusion. All we can do is react; and how we react is what defines us in those situations.
As I write this, I'm thinking about a story. It's a story about a room in a house; a story about the people who are drawn there; a story about the quiet that exists inside each one of us, and the ultimate quiet beyond all of that.
It's a novel. One that stalled a couple of years ago at around the 40,000-word mark.
Today I opened the file and started dabbling with the prose, and the novel seems to be stirring back to life. This pleases me. It's a story I've wanted to tell for years. Hopefully by the end of the year I'll have told it in at least the form of a first draft.
Meanwhile, I'm roughly half way through the last story in my mini collection, At Home in the Dark. It isn't the story I'd originally set out to tell; as I worked on the idea, it transformed into something else.
Creativity is funny that way. You have an idea, and that idea starts to grow. Soon it consumes you. That idea is all you think about. At the day job, in the car, in a queue at the supermarket, as you try to get to sleep at night. The idea: it's all there is. But sometimes that idea tells you that it wants to be something else, and as you worry away at it, the idea changes, it shifts and twists and becomes something else. So you grab hold of it, and you let it take you wherever it wants to go. That's when you know it isn't really you that's in charge: the idea is the boss, and all you can do is follow it.
I wasn't expecting that novel to come back to life, but I was ready for it. When I opened that file, I was ready for anything. I didn't think that idea would mutate, but it did. And when it happened, I was ready: literary zanshin.
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