My favorite days tend to be the ones where I’m free to move at my own pace, which anyone who knows me in my real life knows, is: s l o w . I love it when no one is home and I don’t have to go anywhere. I stay in my pajamas til they’re not comfortable anymore, and I put off talking to anyone as long as possible.
This might sound like a nightmare to some people, but for me it’s utter bliss. This is the routine that helps my brain get going in a creative way. Otherwise I flit from one undesirable task to the next and spend the rest of the day freaking out about how little I have to show for myself as a writer, an artist, or dare I say, a mere creative.
But when the schedule is clear and I have a large swath of quiet, still time stretching out in front of me, I feel more like a kid again. There’s no hurry to be productive or put together. I just sit and read, or journal, or do repetitive chores like laundry and dishes. Those keep my hands busy while allowing my mind to wander, and it’s the wandering that gives me the most creative energy.
It’s true. Just ask that Tolkien guy. In fact, I have a friend I go walking with often and we always take the same trail, as fast as possible. We talk and we walk. This is our weekly exercise; but if I were to go out on a walk just for pleasure, I’d set out in a new place, move much slower than Katie and I do, and I wouldn’t, necessarily, have a destination in mind.
What I’ve learned since I quit working a regular job four years ago, is that I’m not the kind of writer who feverishly writes a thousand words every day. Instead, I’m the kind of writer who makes intentional space in her life so that she can write when the need arises. For me, that’s never been more than three times a week. Perhaps at that rate you’d expect me to have a few more books or projects available to prove that I write this often, but the thing you’d be forgetting is that I don’t always give in to this need when it arises. I still battle fear and resistance every time I sit in front of a blank screen. I’ve learned a few tricks to help defeat them faster, but they’ve never gone away completely, and I don’t know if they ever will.
The other thing I have to remind myself of when I compare my output to that of other writers is that, as I said in the first paragraph, I tend to like a slow pace. And when you factor in the amount of unseen work that most writers have, (take a look at my horrible journals) I figure I’m right where I’m supposed to be. Not everyone has thousands and thousands of words to say. Some of us distill and distill and distill, and that’s okay. There are cheeses that take a few weeks to age, and some that take months and months and months. But it’s all good cheese. (Except for blue. I can’t handle that stinky stuff.)
I started this post the week before Covid19 came to America, and I thought I would find it completely ironic when I started reading back over it today. I mean I’ve had more days than ever at home lately, and time has slowed to such a screeching halt that none of us even knows what day it is anymore. Of course my daytime workload seems to have tripled now that my kids and husband are home all the time as well, but if I truly wanted to, I could still steal an hour or two away to sit at this laptop most days.
And I guess that’s the truth of it, I just don’t want to put in the time everyday. I still want to read, and watch TV, and sit outside and stare at the trees for an hour. And I want to eat lunch with my family. Because I believe something holy and communal happens when we all fill our empty bellies at the same time. Call me lazy. Call me disorganized and undisciplined; just don’t call me late for dinner, ha ha. But seriously, there’s not a right or a wrong way to do every single thing. And if there were, we wouldn’t be able to apply it to every single human in the exact same way, because we’re all completely unique. So maybe it’s okay if I give myself a break right now, and write when I can, and spend the rest of my time being creative in other ways.
Like figuring out how to encourage the girls I mentor from church during this weird time, or inventing a new kind of pasta dish from what we already have in the pantry and fridge, or playing a board game that’s not really my favorite with the rest of the family. I reckon any important words that I have to pen will still be there whenever I get around to recording them. Surely the muse will not stop talking to me completely just because I asked her to wait a few more minutes, until I really had time to listen to her. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned in all the time I’ve spent trying to chase that fickle lady these last several years, is that if I don’t have a life of my own first, she’ll never have anything to say about it.