There’s an old Taoist story about a farmer whose horse ran away. His neighbors on hearing this came to him and said, sympathetically, “Such bad luck!”
“We’ll see,” the farmer replied.
The next day the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “So wonderful!” the neighbors exclaimed.
“We’ll see,” the farmer said.
Then the farmer’s son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown off, and broke his leg. The neighbors offered their sympathy for his misfortune. Continue reading
Vietnamese Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh tells this story:
A young man wanted to learn how to draw lotus flowers, so he went to a master to apprentice with him. The master took him to a lotus pond and invited him to sit there. The young man saw flowers bloom when the sun was high, and he watched them return into buds when night fell. Then next morning, he did the same. When one lotus flower wilted and its petals fell into the water, he just looked at the stalk, the stamen, and the rest of the flower, and then moved on to another lotus. He did that for ten days. On the eleventh day, the master asked him, “Are you ready?” and he replied, “I will try.” The master gave him a brush, and although the young man’s style was childlike, the lotus he drew was beautiful. He had become the lotus, and the painting came forth from him. You could see his naïveté concerning technique, but deep beauty was there. Continue reading
I can’t tell you how many times writers hand me a stack of pages and ask, “Is it any good?”
I’ve stopped answering this question. Sure, some writing is better than others. Sure, I have strong opinions about what makes a good story. But I’ve become increasingly wary of writers’ need to ask this question and my ability to answer it.
When a work-in-progress is deemed “good” by a reader, what purpose does this serve? All artists—all humans—want and need external affirmation; to continue hard work, we need our efforts affirmed and the essence of our endeavors recognized. Continue reading