Do It Right

Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a treatise on attitude.

When I first read the book, I was home in San Diego for Christmas break, from my graduate studies at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Laura, my first wife, myself, and our newborn Darcy had driven from San Diego to Iowa in August and returned in December in a Ford delivery van. It was the stripped-down model, with no insulation, which I had vowed to remedy before driving back to a place that has winter.

My original plan was to line the walls inside with insulation and cover it with cardboard. But while reading Zen and the Art, which taught dedication to care and quality in all efforts, I couldn’t let myself get away with that. So I bought a pile of redwood bender board and spent a whole week on the project. As long as I kept the van, looking at what I had done uplifted me.

Whether our current task is raising kids or counseling friends or writing stories or poems, we owe it to ourselves, families, friends, readers, and God, to use our gifts with care and dedication.

If we writers don’t frequently ask ourselves “Can I do better?” and labor over every clumsy word; if we don’t give our hearts to our stories and ask ourselves at least once on every page, “Am I being honest or just recycling clichés of language or story?”; if we’re not willing to revise until our brains reel from the effort, we’ll be hacks.

The world doesn’t need anymore hacks.

So, given that our tasks are many and our lives are harried, how do we make the time to do everything we do as unto the Lord?

Writing and the Spirit, the book, has some powerful suggestions.