September 14, 2010

Buddhism and Kerouac on How to Blog

Getting Started!

Want to reach a wider audience but don’t know where to start? Believe it or not, the Buddhist tradition offers deep insight into how to blog to make the world a better place. In this post, I combine Jack Kerouac’s Rules for Spontaneous Prose with the three tenets of the Zen Peacemakers to derive some simple practical tips for joining the global conversation. Kerouac was a great teacher to me of the Zen Peacemaker’s first two tenets (Not-Knowing and Bearing Witness), although I eventually looked elsewhere for inspiration regarding how to apply the insights of Not-Knowing and Bearing Witness through action in the world. I list appropriate rules from Kerouac under each tenet.

1. Not-knowing

22. Don’t think of words when you stop but to see the picture better.

5. Something you feel will find its own form.

24. No fear or shame in the dignity of your experience, language & knowledge

29. You’re a genius all the time

10. No time for poetry but exactly what is

13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition

I scrutinized, hesitated and edited for months regarding my first blog post. When I talked to my Zen teacher about it, she gave me a koan: how do you step off the 100 foot pole?

You just do it! I was crippled by fear of how readers would receive my writing. It turned out that that first post went ignored and later posts that I rattled off in a few minutes received several hundred views. You can’t know ahead of time! The important thing is to let go of our expectations regarding quality and reader interest and just get in the habit of sharing. Be thoughtful and adapt your style according to response, but watch out for getting hung up on ideas of what you should be writing.

2. Bearing Witness

1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wile typewritten pages, for yr own job

2. Submissive to everything, open, listening

15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog

Once you’ve put aside ideas about what you should or shouldn’t be writing, look around. What moves you? What makes you happy? What makes you sad? What makes you excited? Readers will relate if you share your genuine reactions to the world. How can we bypass the ruminations of the head and touch readers at the heart, helping them feel what you feel? Pictures help, as do attention-getting headlines and subsections. Most people scan first on the web as opposed to carefully reading long chunks of text.

3. Loving Action

While Kerouac embodied the first two tenets, I don’t think he embodied the 3rd tenet as Zen Peacemakers’ defines it.  He observed and commented on the suffering of the world, but didn’t take actions to alleviate it (to my knowledge).

Digital technology create new opportunities.  We no longer need to sit idly by as corporations dictate the airwaves. Through blogging, we can become the media and use it to create the society we want.  Elsewhere, I’ve explained how the internet could help us build a global community committed to reducing suffering and also seven practical ways we could use online media to make the world a better place.

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