Zen and the Art of PiBoIdMo

True confession one: I’ve never read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle MaintenanceI know people who’ve read it, though, so that counts for something. Right? And I’m certainly no expert on zen as a practice. I think about it, though. So that counts…

Oh, never mind. It’s just a good title for my blog post.

I’m pretty sure that one aspect of Zen, at least, is the concept of living in the moment. Of not spending too much time or energy regretting the past and re-living things you can’t change or fix. Of not worrying about the future or grasping at events or opportunities or dreams that may be out of your control.



Okay, listen. Here’s how my morning went.

I took my notebook into work with me, and get three ideas for the day. So far. They were even “problem” ideas, which I’ve decided is what I’m shooting for–an idea that actually comes with a problem for some hero to solve.  And here’s what went through my mind as I wrote down the ideas.

  • Awesome! I already have my idea. I could stop right now and not bother thinking of any more ideas today. (Trying to make a decision about the future.)
  • Ha! Two ideas. I could count one for tomorrow, and then I could take a PiBoIdMo day off! (Again, projecting what I’ve just succeeded in doing into the future.)
  • Oh, shoot. I didn’t leave any space after that first idea. What if I have more thoughts on it, and then I don’t have any room to jot them down? (More future worry–definitely my particular skill.)
  • You know, that idea I wrote down an hour ago isn’t so hot. I mean what kind of kid would have a problem like that? What was I thinking? (Regret over a past action.)
  • This is feeling like last year, when I plopped down any old idea. Do I want to keep doing all November this year?. (Angst about past and future. I win the worry contest!)

Okay, I’m joking. Sort of. But, truthfully, the little, crazy, is-any-of-this-writing-stuff-really-good-enough voice did toss these thoughts into my head. No, they didn’t linger, because I know that voice, and I know better–usually–than to listen to it. Still, it made me realize–PiBoIdMo has to be about not just living in the moment, but about celebrating the moment. So, come to think about it, does NaNoWriMo. Because they’re both about speed and instant acceptance and randomocity. If you give credence to your doubt voice for more than that fleeting second, you risk throwing yourself off. You risk putting down the PiBoIdMo notebook or the NaNoWriMo file on your computer–putting down your project. You risk pulling the rug out from under yourself and just losing that all-important momentum.

So don’t. No, we can’t shut the voice up for good. But we can push it away, into the past or future if it has to go somewhere, but out of the now.  For all our writing, yes, it’s best to stay present, to be focused on the time we’re putting into our manuscripts at the moment. I think, though, that it’s even more critical for these events. Yes, they’re about quantity, rather than quality. Yes, they’re about racing to get words on the page. What they’re really about, though, is freeing our minds up in a way we rarely do, in a way that gets us out of the self-critical place and into the place of flowing creativity.

I still haven’t done NaNoWriMo. Some day. This is my second year for PiBoIdMo. And I’d like to say thanks, here, to both Chris Baty and Tara Lazar for bringing them both into my world. And wish the best of luck (and FUN!) to all of you participating this year.


  1. Excellent post. “What they’re really about is freeing our minds up in a way we rarely do.” YES! Thank you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: