Could be good, could be bad

wild horse

A few years ago I picked up a library book which opened at this page:

A man in a village lost his horse one night when it broke out of the enclosure and disappeared into the hills. The other villagers saw what a disaster this could be, and commiserated with him.’Terrible news about the horse,’ they said. ‘Could be bad news, could be good news,’ he replied, standing firmly in the present.

A week later his lost horse returned, with twenty wild horses. Suddenly the man had twenty-one horses! The other villagers were ecstatic for him, seeing what this could mean. ‘Brilliant news about the horses!’ they said. ‘Could be good news, could be bad news,’he replied, standing firmly in the present.

You can guess how the story continues, a seesaw of events testing the man to not put a value on them.

It comes from The Beautiful Life, by Simon Parke, a former priest who writes murder mysteries and books on mindfulness.

the beautiful life

Leaving judgement aside frees the man to let life unfold.

The same could be said of writing stories.Coincidentally I just read two blogposts along the same lines. Jo Malby looks at ways of quietening the inner critic (here). Roz Morris discusses writerly traits. ‘I am very good at imagining doom,’ she begins (read the rest of it here).

Judgement of our work often takes place within. The critic’s fangs looming larger inside the globe above the neck, than upon it. A creative act is in part tightrope. A delicate wire of total concentration mixed with luck. Focusing too much on what we think is around us, can cause a loss of balance. When in doubt, I think of the phrase from the apparently mad Hamlet:

There’s nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

It’s natural for our internal X factor judge to want to say their piece. We can listen without engaging, and allow a less critical part to lead.

We all have habits, specific to our craft. It is, for example, neither good nor bad to see the stuff of everyday ‘as a resource’.  As Roz Morris notes , it’s just what many writers do. When we accept the unique – and common- ways in which we work, we unbolt the gates of our own inventiveness.

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Staying neutral means getting out of our own way.

In Oman there are man-made streams, called ‘falaj’-es that weave across the country in thin canals. They carry water to remote parts, supplying whole villages.

A falaj doesn’t have an opinion about what’s coming through, it’s just a space for it to happen. Always in motion, the water stays pure.

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When we give room to what naturally wants to flow, without the brakes of judgement, incredible things can happen.

How do you tap into your flow? Please feel free to share your ideas about this or any other related thing… 🙂

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