A New Beginning

A few days ago at work, I was in the breakroom watching an NHK news documentary about nurses in Japan during the early days of the COVID19 pandemic. A nurse was visiting with a monk, who told her a story about the Buddhist deity Quan Yin. Known in Japan as Kannon, she is the goddess of compassion and known for her 1,000 arms.

The 1,000 arms of Quan Yin or Kannon are commonly depicted holding onto various tools. The tools are not, as we might assume, to fix any situation. To ‘fix’, per se, is not even the purpose of her many arms. Instead, the monk told the nurse, Quan Yin’s 1000 arms exist to reach out to people in need again and again. Merely to reach. Mercy, he said, is to continue to try and reach out, through the process of trial and error.

Trial and error is a process that writers are very familiar with. When I write, I almost feel like I am putting a puzzle together, or digging up something that has been buried and needs to be gently, patiently extracted from the earth like an artifact from eons past. Its a mindful process, that generally makes me feel very calm and happy. However, the sheer effort of creating a fictional world and the characters who inhabit it, plus their histories, motivations, choices, and the words they speak to each other can be exhausting.

For me, imposter syndrome played a big role in the fits and starts it has taken over the last year to write my fantasy novel. I am generally a shy person who sticks to myself and has a small circle of friends and family I can count on, so I didn’t feel like I knew enough firsthand about human nature to capture the personalities of this big cast of characters. Based on a concept I and my sister created when we were kids, I started to work on it in earnest during quarantine in 2020. However, writing a second draft took a back seat to moving to a new town, starting a new job, and a painful personal situation.

In the process, I learned to have faith, to invest in myself, and value my talent as a writer as the gift that it is, a gift that allows me to create things that I am proud of and fill my time with the special experience of doing something I love. If we don’t value and hone our gifts, we will waste our precious time in life trying to figure out just what living is and what we are meant to be doing. We will look in all the wrong places for something that feels fulfilling and purposeful.

Today I went through my old journals, some of them which dated from before my move to a new town, before I began my new job, and in the midst of personal upheaval. Amidst the doubts I secretly confided to lined paper, the prayers I wrote in private letters to God, my hopes and reflections, were several false starts to my novel.

Today, I threw all of these journals away and made a fresh start. As writers, as we grow in our craft and work on our projects, we learn tenderness and care towards our emerging words and coalescing vision of what shape the work should take. We learn patience towards our moments of frustration and writer’s block. We learn healthy respect, and true enjoyment of our gifts. We learn something, each time we reach within. As Quan Yin reaches out with mercy, to try and help, to save, we reach within for the words we know by instinct are there, and must have mercy towards ourselves to write. Trial and error offers us several new beginnings.

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