Kaspa writes: About five years ago I was sitting having dinner with a group of friends in an old converted mill-house in central France. The house belonged to an artist, Simon, and I was there with my Buddhist teacher and a few other friends.
Simon asked something about Koan practice. Koans are the ritual questions that Buddhist teachers give their students to practice and live with. There are traditional questions such as, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” (don’t ask me), but the teacher might also create something more personal to the student. “For example,” my teacher, Dharmavidya, said, “I might say to Kaspa, ‘You don’t have to rush for the bus, another one will be along soon.’”
It was an offhand comment, but there is some truth in it. I do sometimes rush towards the future, towards the end of a project, without realising that I’ll still get there if I slow down, and that it might even be better to slow down and catch the second bus. I won’t be madly out of breath, and I can really pay attention to what I need to be doing in that moment, instead of running towards something unnecessarily.
We spent a long time choosing the first cover for Fiona’s new novel, The Most Beautiful Thing, and choosing the font of the title. Gathering the opinions of designer friends, and so on. This is the one you might have seen a few weeks ago – looking out onto a cloudscape from the inside of an aeroplane.
I created the files for the printer, pressed send, and we waited for a proof copy to arrive. A week later we unwrapped the book, and I saw Fiona’s face drop. I was disappointed too. The colours were off, the image was not sharp enough, but more than these minor, possibly fixable problems, it was the wrong image. It was the image we had chosen, but when we saw it on the book we realised that… it wasn’t right for this book.
We tried to talk ourselves and each other into liking the cover. I looked at it from a distance. I looked at it out of the corner of my eye, as it sat on the arm of the sofa. We took it to a friends house, and a coffee shop, and looked at it in those places.
The grey looking proof lay on the table next to our steaming black coffees. We came clean. Neither of us liked the image we had chosen and we wanted to do something different. The desire to produce something we could both be proud of was stronger than the desire to rush the book into your hands. (The whole point of us creating a press was to make the books look good, after all).
We spent a day looking at photographs of Amsterdam. We spent an evening looking at drawings of birds (Young Joe makes a friend when he draws a kestrel, in the novel). I thought about all the covers I had liked over the years, and slowly an idea formed. I sketched something out on a scrap of paper, and a few days later Fiona and I sat down and hand-drew and coloured the lettering for the new cover.
I made that drawing into a book cover, created the print ready files, and pressed ‘send’ again.
We’re still waiting for the second proof to arrive, but we’re both already much happier with this new image.
Sometimes the second bus is better than the first.
In an effort to practice not rushing, I wrote this post by hand in a beautiful moleskin notebook (sent to me by a generous American reader, thank you). In your writing this week, why not try slowing down?
Some ways of writing a small stone without rushing:
- Write by hand, if you can.
- Give yourself permission to write until a set time, or a certain number of pages. Allow yourself not to worry about anything else for this time.
- Go somewhere where there are less distractions. (Turn Facebook off!)
- Just sit quietly for a few minutes before you write, and allow yourself to slow down. Allow your breathing to slow down.
- Really take your time over each word. This green, or that one?
- When you have a few lines. Stop and look at what you have written. Let yourself play with the words.
The hills on my desk become mountains. Notebooks: a red moleskin, a black moleskin. My Kindle. A landslide of notes on bleached-white A4 pages. Three replica coins from ancient China rest on top of my creased and worn I-Ching. There is a bookmark, (a post it note) in page 82. Kuan – the wind above the receptive earth. “The wind blows over the earth: the image of contemplation.”
Download Fiona’s book for the Kindle for 99p or $1.57 or today. You can also get free software from Amazon read it on your PC or Android phone.