On visiting the Obaku temple in Kyoto (Japan), you are bound to notice these three words on its main gate: The First Principle.
The letters are unusually large, and those who appreciate calligraphy always have something or the other to say about this masterpiece. These words were drawn by Kosen about two hundred years ago. As Kosen sketched these letters, he was watched over by his pupil, who made several gallons of ink for the calligraphy.
Kosen’s work always came under heavy criticism from this pupil.
“That’s not good,” he told Kosen after the first effort.
“How’s this one?”
“Poor. Worse than earlier,” pronounced the pupil.
Kosen patiently wrote one sheet after another, until eighty-four First Principles were accumulated—all deprived of his pupil’s approval.
Then came the moment Kosen had been waiting for. For some reason, the pupil had to step out of the room, and that’s when Kosen told himself, “Now is my chance to escape his keen eye.”
He wrote with a free mind. And ‘The First Principle’ was born.
“A masterpiece,” the pupil exclaimed.
As technical writers, we should work with a focused mind—free of distraction. Slouching in the chair with MP3 music playing in the background and three chat windows vying for your attention is not the ideal way to write. Sit with your back straight. Close all irrelevant windows. Log out of all instant messengers. Turn off your mobile. Just be with yourself and the document!
Kosen could produce a masterpiece, since he was able to seclude himself. Till the time he was watched over by his pupil, he couldn’t write effectively. He was more worried about facing rejection than concentrating on his natural ability to write. When writing, your body and soul should seem as one.
Your involvement should be hundred percent. You must be able to discard the document from your consciousness the moment you complete it—just like a used slipper. Never get attached to the document. Remember, the document is not ‘you’.
Like Kosen, free your mind from any goals and desires. Just write. Try to observe the same harmony and flow with which Kosen wrote ‘The First Principle’. On a different note, technical documentation leads and project managers should only plan and communicate, for it’s the writer’s job to deliver. Once you have given them their responsibilities, leave them alone to create a piece of art.