Zen and the Art of Scribal Maintenance

Update: Please check out my guest contribution at the Save the Cat! blogsite

A decade ago, I was planted firmly in the trenches of corporate America, toiling in a pimped-out office, and being sent on travel junkets in order to network, climb the corporate ladder and expand my business-fied horizons.

One summer, I found myself in a charming American Gothic-esque town, smack-dab in Iowa. It was there that I was introduced to the philosophy of Kaizen. “Kai” meaning “continuous,” and “zen” meaning “improvement.” Or, as the corporation that was training me in the practice described it – “forward motion equals good.”

Kaizen is an ancient tenet of Japanese culture, that rose to prominence after World War II, and was rapidly embraced by certain global corporations, especially those in the dot-com world. Kaizen teaches one to seek constant improvement in his or her craft; it encourages businesses to see their employees as humans, to increase productivity through a nurturing environment – as opposed to the sweat shop mentality.

Kaizen is also a wise model to apply to the process of writing.

The four basic principles of kaizen – applied to writing – are: teamwork (developing a story), discipline (write every day), positive thinking (achieving completion), working with quality material (’nuff said), and seeking suggestions for improvement (feedback).

Sounds like an ideal recipe for a scribe, yes?

We must always be in forward motion. Writing is an exercise, and the creative muscles must constantly be flexed, for if they are allowed to laze about, they become weak and flaccid. We’re always told to have a “next project” – and we’re often told that so we don’t stand in an agent’s room, glassy-eyed and mouth agape when asked “Do you have anything else?”

Of course I believe that you must always have a project going, and yet… I believe that the true reason that we flex the muscles is not to look good, but to be good at what we do. You might have discovered your voice, and it might hit all of the right notes, but your voice will never soar to the heights of one such as Maria Callas if you do not work it out, every single day. Just like exercise. You drive your muscles to fatigue. Six days per week. One day of rest. Then, back to the workout again.

And, if you believe in neural rewiring (I do), kaizen is custom-made for you, for it is through continuous growth that neural pathways are challenged, preventing the establishment of unhealthy responses and behaviors.

A hint: do not pick projects simply because they are marketable. That’s what “everyone” does. Set yourself apart from the masses. Write what resonates within your soul – and write it in a way that people will want to read it and/or see it up on the screen. The former choice will produce a project that is indiscernible among a sea of “written for market” pieces; while the latter will support your voice, your passion, and make your work unique.

Kaizen, baby. Continuous improvement. Forward motion. It’s good.

Now, go write.

HRH, Princess Scribe

What I am reading: I’m reading one of my treatments and one of my outlines, as I practice a little kaizen and select my next project.

What I am watching: CONVICTION.

A Royal-Shout Out: To TwitterPimptress, writer of things, black-belt and stand-up gal Jeanne V. Bowerman’s collaboration with writer Douglas Blackmon – SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME, a screenplay adapted from Blackmon’s powerful book. I’m reading the script and am awash with emotion. This is a story that needs to be told – and one that we, as Americans, should never, ever forget. Producers? Actors looking for “that” role? It’s here – and then some.

About princessscribe

Screenwriter. Creator of things. I love tacos. "Midlife on Fire" Volumes 1 & 2 now available at Amazon.com.
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10 Responses to Zen and the Art of Scribal Maintenance

  1. Michael Kurinsky says:

    Any good books about kaizen out there that you would recommend? Sounds interesting and very much like what I am trying to do right now. Have a great week.- Michael


  2. Mike Shields says:

    The irony here is, I’ve taken time away from writing to read this.


  3. Jan Militello says:

    Kai” meaning “continuous,” and “zen” meaning “improvement…

    This brings to mind an Abraham Lincoln quote I noticed etched into the front of a building over the weekend: “I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.”

    I have two hopes. One: If Abe were saying the same today it might be worded along the lines, “I do not think much of a person who is no wiser today than yesterday.” And two: That I may fall squarely into the kaizen category.


  4. *clinks glass with yours*


  5. Love this. It’s always good and refreshing to come across another writer that isn’t slavishly Aristolean. Wanna swap links? I’m at http://www.wheresthedrama.com Let me know if you are interested – email me at stonekingseminars@hotmail.com



  6. Thanks, Billy! Done!


  7. Pingback: Best o/t Web 3 July | The Story Department

  8. Pingback: More thought on Scribal Maintenance | Princess Scribe's Blog

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