Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones (easy entry, zen approach, good for self-exploration & journaling, overall system with examples) We are trading around some tapes of this book.
“Our task is to say a holy yes to the real things of our life as they exist – the real truth of who we are: several pounds overweight, the gray, cold street outside, the Christmas tinsel in the showcase, the Jewish writer in the orange booth across from her blond friend who has black children. We must become writers who accept things as they are, come to love the details, and step forward with a yes on our lips so there can be no more noes in the world, noes that invalidate life and stop these details from continuing.”
Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, Poemcrazy: freeing your life with words (easy entry, story-essays, ideas/strategies & prompts related to them)
“When the juggler said devil sticks my perception shifted and for a moment the sticks looked sharp and their clatter sounded sinister. When he called them flower sticks, the rods suddenly looped into a daisy in the air. Names are powerful. ... Take a walk outside. Pretend you are the first person who has ever seen the plants and trees on this walk. It's your job to name them.”
Deena Metzger, Writing for Your Life: A Guide and Companion to the Inner Worlds (easy entry, writing to examine one's life, explanation of principles and strategies with many examples from nonprofessional writers, tasks and prompts. She has sections on creativity, story, archetype and myth, and writing as spiritual practice. The spiritual practice section comes from a mixture of traditions, but has useful ideas for zen writing.)
“I am not suggesting that the path of the creative should or can replace other spiritual disciplines: I am only saying that it, too, has a series of practices and is a way to complement and amplify one's spiritual life.”
“These gratitudes, written as small pieces, can capture the freshness of the moment. They ask us to be present in the event as we write. ... It is too easy to give thanks absentmindedly.”
Kim Stafford, The Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer's Craft (easy entry, entertaining story-essays on writing, approach resembles zen, useful and surprising concrete strategies, good for beginner or upgrading skills)
“The feeling of not getting it is a good sign, not a paralyzing signal. The writing is hard because I am seeking connections that I did not know before—that nobody knew before. To proceed under such conditions is the hardest thing to do and the only thing worth doing. ... My wife says I get quiet when I have something big coming up—a speech to give, a new class about to begin, an essay brewing. 'If I didn't know you,' she says, 'you might seem depressed. But that's not it. You're gathering new stuff, that's all.'”
Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity (easy entry, essays which combine story with idea, good for self-exploration & journaling, increasing creativity in general rather than writing alone, good overview-system for an approach to creating, homework tasks)
“Grandmother was gone before I learned the lesson her letters were teaching: survival lies in sanity, and sanity lies in paying attention. Yes, her letters said, Dad's cough is getting worse, we have lost the house, there is no money and no work, but the tiger lilies are blooming, the lizard has found that spot of sun, the roses are holding despite the heat.”
William Stafford, Crossing Unmarked Snow, Writing the Australian Crawl (easy entry, new ideas to think about writing, approach resembles zen, also includes ideas on teaching writing in a non-dominating way, fairly accessible but not overview aimed at getting you started—more a collection of interviews and bits) Whenever I read his essays or poems, I find myself writing.
“So, I mean I'm looking at the room I'm in.... Or it may be the sound of the birds outside, or it might be the residue from a dream I just left from my sleep. I don't try for being relevant to current experience but if it invites itself, I welcome it. The feeling is of greeting anything at the door and saying, 'Come on in.'”
Jane Hirshfield, Nine Gates:Entering the Mind of Poetry (advanced, ideas, poetry, draws on zen specifically, upgrading skills,)
“Writers, too, must be persons of no rank, for whom no part of existence is less—or more—holy than the rest. The writer turns to the inconsequential and almost invisible weeds for meaning as much as the glorious blossoms, values the dark parts of the story as much as the light.”
Mary Oliver, A Poetry Handbook (advanced, poetry, upgrading skills, overview of skills, her poetry often seems zen-like)
“It can wait. It can stay silent a lifetime. Who knows anyway what it is, that wild , silky part of ourselves without which no poem can live? But we do know this: if it is going to enter into a passionate relationship and speak what is in its portion of your mind, the other responsible and purposeful part of you had better be a Romeo.”
Gregory Orr, Poetry as Survival (advanced, ideas on poetry for healing) I recently got this and haven't read much of it yet, but it seems to be on the healing and transformative power of writing, how it helps us make order of our lives and its pain. I notice that the first essay concerns the self and what it might be, so I am guessing a zen-like approach. It is more philosophical about what poetry does but it draws some on personal example and a lot on particular poems. Dipping ahead, I find intruiging things about the need to open to the nameless. He speaks of “giving over of the self,” standing on the “threshold.”
“I had a sudden sense that the language in poetry was 'magical,' ... that it could create or transform reality rather than simply describe it. ... I felt simultaneously revealed to myself and freed of my self by the images and actions of the poem.”
Gary Gach, What Book!?: Buddha Poems From Beat to Hiphop (anthology of Buddhist poetry, short intro essay on Buddhist poetry, not as Beat-oriented as title sounds)
“Poetry reveals energies we need in order to live. Different energies are revealed by different forms. There is no one model for a 'Buddhist' poem.”
Kent Johnson and Craig Paulenich, Beneath a Single Moon: Buddhism in Contemporary American Poetry (anthology of Buddhist poetry, Buddhist poems, 30+ essays on Buddhist poetry)
from Jane Augustine's essay: “Rules for oneself maybe be unbuddhistic, but I have some:
1. Don't write what anyone could call Buddhist poetry. If this category existed, it would have to be as corrupt as Christian or Communist poetry, or Catholic mathematics—a propaganda tool for an institution or a sectarian point of view.
2. Avoid Buddhist terms whenever possible. Readers don't know what they mean, and often get the impression the poet is showing off his mysticism or 'higher levels' of achievement, wnich strikes a wrong note and defeats the poem.
Still, when writing on my father's death I used lines from The Tibetan Book of the Dead because I said them for him then, but even so, now I question this seeming inevitability of word choice. It was probably a mistake—too high-sounding, as if I were religious when I'm not.”
many authors, Writing Our Way Home, a group journey out of homelessness, pub by Doors of Hope, a homeless support center in Memphis where they gathered. (easy entry, utterly absorbing writing by people who tell about "the long process of becoming homeless and the long process of becoming housed.") Not explicitly Zen, and many of the authors speak of God, but is there anyone more qualified to describe what it is like to live in the moment? Well organized, flows beautifully. Group process they used almost identical to AZC. Every voice is a lesson for writing from the heart. 5 stars on Amazon
Steven Pressfield, The Art of War,
"I've never read a self help book that wasn't fatuous, obvious and unhelpful. Until The War of Art. It's amazingly cogent and smart on the psychology of creation. If I ever teach a writing course this would be one of the first books I'd assign, along with the letters of Flannery O'Connor."
—Jay McInerney, author of Bright Lights, Big City and Brightness Falls