There is that list of popular books on the craft of writing that get bandied about frequently. Being the happy little consumer that I am, I buy them all. One such book is Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing, hosting a collection of essays on the craft and one essay sharing the book's title.
I've had this book on my shelf for a while now, and admit I read this essay last night because of the Z factor, but it didn't take long for the truth of Bradbury's words to really touch me.
Bradbury tells us the elements of writing are work, relaxation and 'don't think!', this is what will bring you to a attitude of Zen (Buddhist belief that practicing meditation, self-contemplation and intuition will bring you enlightenment). Writing towards financial gain or fame are false goals and begets a product which is a lie. For writing to be worthwhile it must be truthful, come from what you feel and not be a manipulated outcome aimed at a lucrative market. I can accept this philosophy because it fits with my own on life matters: 'nurture the relationship you have with yourself and others, everything else, belonging, love, happiness, money etc will sort itself out.'
The essay also makes good points about getting into the creative flow by first working through the chore. The only way to improve writing is to write, "Quantity gives experience. From experience alone can quality come." Writers should not look at discarded works as failures, but as studies towards perfecting their art. "Work is done. If good, you learn from it. If bad, you learn even more."
The way we bring truth to our art is to "don't think", allow your subconscious to create and your fingers to transcribe. Bradbury points out that a surgeon can not consider the money as an athlete can not focus on the crowd when they each perform. It is only the act that matters.
If you can gain this perspective on your writing then relaxation will follow, because the writing becomes a natural extension of your truth and no longer a task or chore. Bradbury puts it simply:
"There is no failure unless one stops."