The first verse of the Tao Te Ching goes like this.
The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name;
this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery.
(The exact words differ depending on which translation you consult, but the gist is more or less the same).
I understand this verse to mean that there is an undecipherable force, a mysterious ... mystery that governs all of life. It is from this well of mystery that all life springs forth and unfolds, and it is back into this well of mystery that all life falls upon ceasing.
I understand this verse to mean that life and its mysterious ways of unfolding cannot be wholly explained by tools of logic and rationale, of patterns and reasoning.
Ever since I realized this, perhaps 3—4 years ago, I've resisted all attempts at codifying life.
For instance, I cannot for the life of me break down a story into a structural format; I find my analytical brain simply inadequate for explaining something as abstract as 'story'.
Conversely, I find myself unable to write based on a predetermined outline. The muse loves exploring the story as it unfolds.
The reason I write this is because as I write more and publish more and do more writer-ly things like sending out a newsletter, I find that many of the systems that I use are governed by algorithms and such.
It makes sense then to assume that if one knows how to play the game, they can bend the algorithms in their favour.
But what baffles me every time is how unpredictable things are.
Something what I write and dismiss as commonplace gets the strongest and most heartfelt reactions from readers.
Something what I believe would definitely touch the hearts of many barely records any response. Lack of response doesn't necessarily mean lack of interest.
It's these nuances that I personally find tracking and algorithmic tools such as newsletter analytics, click rates, open rates, fail to capture for me.
Or perhaps I'm just a complete ignoramus who doesn't understand how systems work and so I'm resorting to the 'grapes are sour' explanation for my ignorance.
So the lesson for me in all this is to keep writing, keep sharing my work, and let the mysterious Tao do the rest.
The opposite is true for me when it comes to music. I can read a sheet of music and attempt to reproduce it faithfully on the piano. But ask me to compose a tune, and I'd freeze.
D, on the other hand, cares little for reading music. His fingers fly over the piano and he comes up with the most melodious of tunes.
Ask him how he does it, and he wouldn't be able to deconstruct his method or process for you.
In the same way, ask me how to write a story or how I write mine, I'd be able to tell you nothing. It's because my brain simply doesn't work in that analytical way that is required to deconstruct and explain a process so that it can be reproduced.
But I love the certainty of math. And I love the emotional tug of language too.
I reckon one can be a particular way in one field and of an entirely different bent of mind altogether in another field. See, I can't even replicate the workings of my own brain across different aspects of my life!
I remember how when little D was much smaller, I used to sometimes call him Tao (pronounced as Dao). It was a reminder to myself that he is his own person, and that his life will unfold in ways beyond what I can fathom and conceive with my limited imagination, and that I'd serve him best by trusting in the forces of existence that govern all life in the Universe. I'd serve him best by trusting in the Tao.
In this day and age of numbers — how many copies of the book were sold, what rank it reached on the bestsellers' list, how many reviews it garnered — I'd do well to remember that the only thing in my control is my writing.
I must write, I must write as often and as well as I can. I must publish what I write and let the market know that my books are available for purchase.
And then onwards to the next piece of writing.
Sounds naïve in this day and age? Absolutely!
Will this work? I don't know!
But then, nobody can tell you exactly what will work. So why not this?
All I know is that the more I write, the more writings I have to share with readers. I can leave the rest to the mysterious Tao! That makes my work so easy for me!
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