Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Fighting the Tofu."

It may be a little hypocritical--and perhaps a little heavy-handed--for me to write today on the topic of writerly self-discipline. Hypocritical, because, well, I haven't blogged in almost a week. Heavy-handed, because New Year's is just around the corner, and that dirty 'D' word is already on so many peoples' minds, if not on their lips. Nevertheless, being disciplined as a writer is important, and since pep talks are popular on these days just preceding the New Year, I proffer another, just for the heck of it! With a little help from Natalie Goldberg. I've mentioned this wonderful lady before in a previous post. Goldberg is the author of the book Writing Down the Bones, an inspiration collection of helpful exercises and encouragement for the novice, as well as seasoned writer. She helped me think about being a disciplined writer earlier this week, with her chapter entitled, "Fighting Tofu." Here's what she has to say:

"Discipline has always been a cruel word. I always think of it as beating my lazy part into submission, and that never works. The dictator and the resister continue to fight: 
-I don't want to write.
-You are going to write.
-I'll write later. I'm tired.
-You'll write now.
All the while the notebook remains empty. It's another way that ego has to continue to struggle. Katagari Roshi has a wonderful term: 'fighting the tofu.' Tofu is a cheese made out of soybeans. It's dense, bland, white. It is fruitless to wrestle with it; you get nowhere. If those characters in you want to fight, let them fight. Meanwhile, the sane part of you should quietly get up, go over to your notebook, and begin to write from a deeper, more peaceful place."

The trick, Goldberg says, is to not let the fighters come with you to your notebook!

I've always been that writer who believes that when inspiration knocks, that is the time to write. None of this scheduled, regimented sort of writing. It seemed too much like a job. Funny that I still tend to think like this, because all serious writers, though they may indeed be artists, consider it their job to write. And what better job is there, for those like us, who love the written word, love to wring lillies from acorns, using all the tools our language affords us? I mentioned in another recent post, that one of my New Year's resolutions is to write a novel. Well, that's going to take some discipline. I can't just sit at my kitchen table over a glass of pinot noir, and think about it anymore. I need to do it! And I will  do it. Because the older I get, the more I feel satisfied with simply having had the idea for a great story or poem, and the less, it seems, I'm willing to follow through. I use all manner of excuses, but in the end, I always feel disappointed that I have nothing to show for having had an experience worth writing down. These experiences are logged in my memory, but memory corrupts with time, and loses it's potency. I want to resolve to capture every inspirational idea while it is fresh, but I know that might be a little unrealistic. Instead I resolve to capture a time every week, at least, to do some serious writing, and see what comes of it.

I'll do what Katagari Roshi admonishes, and when the rebellious me comes out,  I'll "fight the tofu!"

Will you join me?

"Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability.” -Roy Smith


  1. I try my very best to write every day, although I'm fairly miserably in the area of my novel.

    Your post has inspired me!

    On to a New Year, and new possibilities at the tip of the pen!

    . . . or rather, the tip of our fingers. . .

    - Lauren

    Ladaisi Blog

  2. Yes, indeed! New possibilities! I'm really exciting for the New Year and all the promise it holds, in a creative sense!

    Let's continue to inspire each other!



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