When bestselling author Ruth Ozeki becomes a Zen priest, she finds out Zen and novel writing do not easily go hand in hand.
In 2003, when my second novel was published, I felt like everything in my life and in the larger world was falling apart. My father had died several years earlier after suffering a series of heart attacks. My country, still reeling from the shock of the attacks on September 11, 2001, had been plunged into war. My mother, who already had Alzheimer’s, was diagnosed with cancer, and my husband and I were trying to care for her in our home on a remote island in Desolation Sound, British Columbia. In addition to all this—or because of it—I found myself unable to write.
No, that’s not quite right. Let me clarify. I was writing, or trying to write. I sat down at my computer every morning. Characters would come to me, suggesting shadowy ideas for plot. Random congruencies began to accrue into themes, and images would resonate. Cautious, but fueled by hope, I would fill pages with scenes. At the end of the day I would shut down my computer with an uneasy sense of satisfaction, which grew into an uneasy sense of excitement as months passed, and the story—a nascent world or, dare I say, novel—grew larger and richer and more complex.
Excerpted from the Spring 2013 issue of Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly, available on newsstands and by subscription.
Ruth Ozeki is a Soto Zen priest and an award-winning writer. Her novels include All Over Creation, My Year of Meats, and her forthcoming book, A Tale for the Time Being (Viking, March 2013). She lives in New York and British Columbia.
Photo by Kris Krug