Writing Mind, Big Mind, Judging Mind

My friend Amy Sundberg talks about the Writing Mind, in response to Jeff VanderMeer’s missive that forcing your concentration to meet a fixed daily word count isn’t a universally good idea. Even when you aren’t writing, you can still be writing. The imagination is always busy, and sometimes it does its best work when we give it space and time. I know that for me a daily word count is not all that helpful. The words will come when they come. I might get other words to come, but the chances are that if I force it, they won’t be the words I need.

Amy’s idea of the Writing Mind reminds me of what zen buddhists call the Big Mind. Most of us, most of the time, live in our Small Mind. If you’re worried, stressed, anxious, uptight, angry, being needlessly aggressive or competitive, that’s your Small Mind doing what it thinks it needs to do to keep you alive. I say ‘what it thinks’ because when you look back at the sum total of time your Small Mind spends worrying about things, you can be fairly sure that 90% wasn’t worth worrying about, and the other 10% wasn’t improved by worrying about it anyway. Your small mind is about you. What you need. What you want. Your survival in this big bad world.

The Big Mind is all about We and all about Us. It understands that the world is made up of 7 billion interdependent human beings and that in anything but the short term acting selfishly for your own interests alone doesn’t get us very far. And because the Big Mind understands the interconnectedness of all things, it understands that there is really no need to worry. When you are relaxed, happy, calm, blissful, joyful and at peace, that is your Big Mind being in charge.

(If your internal voices are shouting ‘This is all nonsense! I have to look out for number one first and foremost!’, well…that’s your Small Mind talking.)

The other thing that your Big Mind does is create. Whether it’s a work of art, or an essay, or a business, anything humans create has to come from our Big Mind. Small Mind isn’t good at creating. Creativity is risky. That book might not sell. That essay might get a bad grade. The whole business might go bust. It’s better to do things that are routine. Where the outcome is assured. Keep the money coming in. Pay off that mortgage. Get that pension scheme built up. Don’t, whatever you do, decide to become a writer. If Small Mind has one ultimate commandment, that’s probably it.

A daily word count can be a way of dealing with Small Mind, by powering past it. But it can also be capitulation to the Small Mind. Because you are turning the creative act of writing in to a routine act that Small Mind can control. Get those two thousand words written. Sell a book a year. Earn enough from writing to…pay off that mortgage. Get that pension scheme built up. Not that you shouldn’t have these things. But the part of you that wants them isn’t often the part that creates anything splendid and beautiful.

AND A LITTLE BIT OF NEWS…

British Fantasy Society logo (circa 2008)
Image via Wikipedia

I’ll be exercising my Judging Mind as a judge for this years British Fantasy Awards. Which is…quite cool and exciting. I can already feel the power going to my head. If you are a member of the British Fantasy Society or attended / attending the 2011 / 2012 FantasyCon you can vote for the shortlist, from which we judges will be selecting winners. So go and vote, and give me some good stuff to read.

 

 

 

And a little bit more on Big Mind…

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5 thoughts on “Writing Mind, Big Mind, Judging Mind”

  1. Experiments have shown that if everyone on a busy road drives at a reasonable speed and doesn’t try to overtake etc, everyone gets to their destination quicker than the norm, ie- cutting each other up and trying to gain personal advantage. Maybe highways should have BIG MIND signs!

    As for wordcounts, when I DO do them I make it weekly rather than daily. There’s a lot more flexibility and acceptance of the brain’s flakiness therein, while still imposing at least some kind of focus.

     

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    1. In the Buddhist sense, you will never persuade all people to be Big Mind. The mortal plane of existence is basically defined by the mortal inability to cooperate. If we all did, the world would become a kind of ‘heaven on earth’. That’s the soul goal of most spiritual teaching, but most people at any given time aren’t ready to hear it.

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  2. Agree that word counts aren’t for everybody. I think it’s a personality variable. It suits some but not others. There are too many dogmas about writing. (Never use words like grunted…)
    There’s more than one way to do it. (The Perl motto.)

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  3. Zen buddhists are spot on with this one! Only yesterday I was driving round fussing over the failings and tribulations of my struggling tree surgery business, with the small mind in total control!
    Back in front of the computer trying to come up with a 1500 word life writing piece for an OU course, I just started to freewrite and gradually I could feel the influence of big mind as he gently ousted his small-minded rival. Took him about two hours though!

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