Planting a Seed

It was the winter solstice, and so generally a time of drawing inward, of consolidation. Not normally the time to begin a new project. But I had known for a while that it was time to start writing seriously again, and there is a special power at the start of a new season.

Conveniently, I didn't know what I should write about.

That not-knowing opened me to further contemplate the significance of the day. The solstice heralds a time of going deep, and so I decided to proceed purely by zero-drafting, that is, simply by writing what the given moment requested that I write and trusting that through the writing I would learn what I was trying to say. Through that process I could honor the season. I could spend that time underground, exploring the unseen depths, using zero-drafts as my headlamp.

Though I must add: Writing has been my calling but all too often I have failed to make it my job. I've rarely shared what I've written. This new practice was meant to be an exploration of unseen places, but it wasn't journaling. The ultimate goal was publication.

With that in mind, in mid-February, I substantially changed the direction of my technique. I asked, What if I change my approach to zero-drafting? What if I blast out 1,000 zero-draft words per day and publish them right away? It was interesting to note what happened. My moment-by-moment writing slowed down. I became somewhat more careful about my grammar (proper grammar not usually being a concern in a zero draft) and paid a lot more attention to the logical and rhetorical flow of the piece.

By changing the boundaries under which the game is played, you change the game itself.

I initially liked the idea, and I found it a worthwhile practice, but I didn't go through with it. I didn't publish the piece right away.

Okay, I said. I'll publish after a quick edit. I'll start on Monday. And I did that quick edit, but it still didn't feel right. So I didn't publish.

Maybe next week? I asked myself. But no, not then either.

And then it occurred to me: If the initial zero-drafting was my deep, underground process for winter, then publishing could be the hello-sunshine process for spring.

Today is the equinox, and right here I am planting a seed.

And I still don't know what exactly is going to sprout.

4 thoughts on “Planting a Seed”

  1. Yes! This is clearly a turning point for you, Ben. I, too, struggle with the final step of publication. I’ve read this a number of times already and I keep coming back to the central metaphor–the power of the equinox and the change it portends. I love that you began this process on the winter equinox and published it on the spring equinox. It gives me a sense of how much was going on in Ben’s underground all winter. Now we get to witness the above-ground growth! Thanks for sharing. It’s given me quite a lot to chew on. Can’t wait for the next piece.

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