Saturday, January 16, 2016

From the Archives: Zen and the Art of LEGO

Posted by: R.L. Naquin
Left to my own devices, this is what happens.
Not sure what that says about my books.
Veronica sez: We needed a post for today and I love Legos so I thought this archived post would be fun. Personally I'm eyeing the Death Star model but THAT is a HUGE commitment! right now I'm doing The Big Bang Theory set.

Writers are odd ducks. We build worlds, we create events, and we breathe life into—and take it away from—all sorts of creatures, both human and not. Yet, with all this godlike power, most of us suffer from bouts of crippling self-doubt, burnout, and sensory overload.

When my head feels like it’s going to explode with the pressure of all the facts, chatter, and plot points having a fist fight over which should be the priority, it’s time to take a LEGO break.

I’m not talking about sitting down with a box of loose bricks and thinking up something to build. That, my friends, is exactly what I’m taking a break from in my writing. This is about sitting down with a LEGO set.

It’s sort of a form of meditation. A big set comes with several separate bags of pieces, numbered, so you know what order to open them. Start with bag number one. Sort the bricks into piles of similar colors. Already, I can feel my mind emptying. Maybe with a big bag (or in the case of a large project several bags labeled with ones), I’ll sort the individual colors into types of bricks as well. Whatever. It doesn’t much matter, as long as I arrange the piles so they give me room to build.

Keep your chin up, Frank. Cyclops is breaking
you guys out.
The next step is to put together any mini figures in the set. These are ready-made characters. I didn’t create them. I merely followed the directions to put the correct heads on the correct torsos on the correct legs, then added the correct accessories. I don’t have to give them names or backstories or motivation. They simply are. Then I set them aside until the end of the project. Because for once, the characters don’t matter at all. They’re window dressing.

Then I build.

It has begun.
There are no words in the instructions, because LEGO bricks are from Denmark. Pictures are universal. Very simple pictures. For each step, there’s what I like to call “the shopping list.” It’s a picture of all the pieces I need for that step, and how many. I grab them from the piles, then begin.

The directions are one step at a time. One brick. Then add these two bricks. Then put this one in the middle. It looks like nothing. It can’t possibly be a castle at the end. In fact, I don’t even know what piece of the whole I’m working on.

First floor!
And that’s why this works as a meditation and break from writing. I have no control over any of it—or responsibility. I don’t have to know why I’m putting that piece there. I don’t turn the page or look at a next step until I’ve completed what’s in front of me. I can’t build myself into a corner so I have to back track to fix it unless I stray from the instructions. I don’t have to know anything. Put this here. Then put that there. Trust the LEGO gods to get me through without my having to do anything more than the single step in the here and now.

Completed inside, furniture
and accessories included.
There’s no planning. There’s no thinking ahead. There’s no responsibility for what the finished product will look like. One step, then the next. Don’t turn the page until it’s time. Never question the truth of the instructions. When it’s done, it’s done. I don’t have to tweak it or rebuild it or pull it apart to replace a wall that might look nicer. It’s not my design.

I know it sounds incredibly weird. But it’s soothing. I often don’t sleep well at night for all the characters chattering and ideas poking at me. But when I build, there is blessed silence.

And sometimes in the silence, the tiny voice or idea that was too quiet to be heard over the terrible din steps forward and speaks.
Welcome to House Vampire.
My head is now clear.

Rachel writes stories that drop average people into magical situations filled with heart and quirky humor.

She believes in pixie dust, the power of love, good cheese, lucky socks and putting things off until the last minute. Her home is Disneyland, despite her current location in Kansas. Rachel has one husband, two grown kids and a crazy-catlady starter kit.

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  1. Really enjoyed the post! We do LEGOS as well but it's not so zen for me. I usually end up taking it apart and rebuilding at least 3 times. But my grandson ends up happy which is what counts.

  2. Kids are so much fun! I'm in sort of an in-between stage right now. My kids are grown, but not yet bringing in grandkids. Fortunately, my husband is a LEGO fanatic, too. In fact, I think we need a bigger house just for LEGO displays. Maybe I need to write more and zen less?


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