immolate yourself in your writing

When you do something, you should do it with your whole body and mind; you should be concentrated on what you do. You should do it completely, like a good bonfire. You should not be a smoky fire. You should burn yourself completely. If you do not burn yourself completely, a trace of yourself will be left in what you do.

—Shunryu Suzuki

I’m not a highlighter per se, but when I read the above quote in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, I wanted to score it deep into my brain. Yes, I thought. I want to be a good bonfire. I want to burn myself completely in my work.

It’s wonderful training for this, helping others write books as a ghostwriter. Nobody wants a smoky ghostwriter leaving traces of themselves behind in what they do. Ghostwriting brings clarity to the writing process I’ve grown to appreciate. For example, you never would have guessed that I was the one who wrote the last four Harry Potter novels. Right? Those read exactly as though J.K. Rowling wrote them all by herself. As, in fact, she did. But if she hadn’t, and I had, you never would have guessed—because there was no smoke.


I continue to find it paralyzing when I’m writing “my thing”—if you’ve figured out what my thing is, you’re way ahead of me—which may be one reason these things are written so infrequently. Tell me to write someone else’s thing and, well, things suddenly open up.
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