Timons Esaias on Writing Meditation Practice
Timons Esaias a satirist, writer and poet living in Pittsburgh joined the Online Mindful Writers Group, https://www.facebook.com/groups/706933849506291/?source=create_flow on March 18 to talk about Writing Meditation Method that includes meditation, journaling, wordless recreation and his favorite books on the craft of writing.
Timons Esaias’s works, ranging from literary to genre, have been published in twenty languages. He has been a finalist for the British Science Fiction Award and has won the Asimov’s Readers Award. He was shortlisted for the 2019 Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize. His story “Norbert and the System” has appeared in a textbook, and in college curricula. His SF short story “Sadness” was selected for three Year’s Best anthologies in 2015. Recent genre appearances include Asimov’s, Analogand Lightspeed. His full-length Louis-Award-winning collection of poetry — Why Elephants No Longer Communicate in Greek— was brought out by Concrete Wolf. His poetry publications include Atlanta Review, Verse Daily, 5AM, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Willard & Maple, Asimov’s Science Fictionand Elysian Fields Quarterly: The Literary Journal of Baseball. He is Adjunct Faculty at Seton Hill University, in the Writing Popular Fiction MFA Program.
People who know Tim are not surprised to learn that he lived in a museum for eight years.
He collects chess sets and elephants.
It is alleged that he goes on and on when asked a question.
TIMON ESAIAS ON MEDITATION
I rarely “sit” for meditation these days, but it’s not that I don’t respect the practice. I frequently participated in meditation, under a variety of circumstances, from my teens through early 30s. It was my martial art, aikido, that gave the practice some focus. My form of aikido emphasizes centering and meditation, both sitting and in motion. In the dojo we would do this slowly and deliberately, of course. But what one is meant to learn is that when faced with threat you exhale, relax, center, and move mindfully. Instant meditation. In a job, that sometimes involved physical confrontation, I discovered that I’d really learned this; and it was to everyone’s benefit. Do not participate in attacks upon yourself, that was the first rule; and the world’s distractions can be just such an attack. Letting one’s Internal Editor act as Advance Censor is another. Relax, center, imagine, step around the Editor, and write.
GUIDED MEDITATION (15 Minutes)
This month’s meditation is, “Animating Seven Energy Centers” from the CD, Meditations for Mindful Writers: Sensations, Feelings, Thoughts. It is available at: https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/madhubazazwangu3
T.E. ON JOURNALING
I have failed at formal journaling, though I’ve started journals many times. The problem is that I’m too conscious that someone else could read the journal in the future, treating it as a formal work, and I don’t really want to be thinking about readers when I should be doing the writing for myself. I’ve considered journaling and then shredding the journal the next day, but that makes it feel like wasted time, even though I really know that no paragraph is wasted, even when nobody ever sees it. I used to get around this resistance by writing very clever letters to friends; so, I waswriting for an audience, while trying things out. Sadly, I’ve become a terrible correspondent over the last two decades, so that isn’t helping. I write a lot of notes, though. I always have a writer’s notebook and pen, and I usually have a legal pad and clipboard; and I seem perfectly happy to write what would be a journal entry under other circumstances, and then tear off the sheets and throw them into a box. And yes, I go through the boxes from time to time, looking for the next idea.
The discipline I practice is to look around me, find the interesting thing (which is often the discordant thing), and write a poem about it, or a “practice paragraph” based on that thing. It’s good description practice. Quite a number of my published poems, and several flash fictions, have begun this way. I often look for The Thing That Is Here, But That Everybody Is Always Ignoring. (I don’t know how many people have insisted to me that traffic light control boxes don’t exist, because they never notice them.)
I often use a “hidden object” exercise with writers, because I know that everybody has something in their house, carefully wrapped up and hidden away, that has great significance for them (or they wouldn’t have kept it), but which they also avoid (haven’t seen in years). This will be a variation on that, in four steps.
First step: Make a list of three inanimate objects in your home, or office. These being:
- An object on view for anyone who visits to see. (Painting, for example, or object d’art, or furniture.)
- An object on view for you, but in a more private space. Something on your office desk, for instance.
- And, as mentioned above, the hidden object. Important, yet stored away. Like old love letters, or the severed head of Adolf Hitler, that you brought home from the War. Okay, only one of us has that, so it was a bad example, the second one. But you know what yours is or are.
Second step: Breathe, center, and for five minutes, imagine you are object #1, and write about what you think about your surroundings. You might possibly express a view of your owner.
Third step: Ditto, for object #2.
Fourth step: Ditto, for object #3.
WRITING (1-4 Hours)
T.E. ON WORDLESS RECREATION
Well, when working at home, the best mid-session wordless recreation is the brewing of a cup of tea. (Whoever invented instant tea was not a writer.) My office is on the third floor, or out on the porch, so I have to leave the office to make the tea.
I was thinking about this subject yesterday, while sawing up, by handsaw, the trunk from our latest Christmas tree. I compost all of our yard scraps and trimmings, a lot of it by cutting up the brush and trees by hand. It’s good exercise, but it also gives me time to think. As does four-foot gardening. But my best opportunity for exercise-that’s-really-thinking-time is walking. We’re half a block from Homewood Cemetery (which is adjacent to Frick Park), and very close to the Smithfield East End Cemetery, and there are endless miles of interesting neighborhoods, and Schenley Park, all within walking distance. I try for five miles a day. The exercise is good in itself, the varied scenery frees the imagination, and there are generally one or two surprises that can go directly into the writing notebook, if not the current manuscript. On my best days I use the walks as an essential part of the writing process. When I have to compose a new talk, or develop a new workshop, I ask myself what the first question I need to answer is, and then I go out for at least a mile of walking, with the specific task of answering that first question. Then I write down what I come up with. On the next walk, I work on the next thing. I don’t try to solve all the problems at once (though if the ideas come, I pull out the notebook then and there, and get them down), just the next step. It’s a veryproductive discipline. When working on a long story or big task, my day often consists of walking to a library, followed by writing down what I came up with on the way and developing it for an hour (For some reason an hour is my optimal quota.), then walking to a coffee shop, ditto, an hour ditto, then on to another library, coffee shop, Cathedral of Learning (if one happens to be in the neighborhood). Think, write, think, write, compost, write.
Years ago, I used to do it throwing punches at a heavy bag. I should probably get back to that.
- E.’S FAVORITE CRAFT BOOKS
I teach the craft of writing, and I have to evaluate student responses to books on craft, but I don’t actually have much time to read craft books myself.
There are many, many good ones that might contain the Magic Words that you need. For my students I list Writing the Fiction Synopsis; Goal, Motivation and Conflict; Self-Editing for Fiction Writers; The Elements of Style; The Elements of Screenwriting; and David Morrell’s Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing. And there is much support and good sense in the well-known bird by birdand Writing Down the Bones, each of which I used as textbooks in my undergrad Publication Workshop course.
But let me mention two worth looking at. First is Reading Like a Writerby Francine Prose. It’s really about thinkinglike a writer, and so is John McPhee’s Draft No 4. I recommend them both.