Lately, I’ve been breaking rules.
And not in a good way.
I’ve been starting the day with my cellphone, looking at my email, scrolling through Facebook, clicking over to CBC or the Guardian to check out the news.
Trump, suicide bombers, the traumatizing appropriation debate, residential school deniers, racism, rising Arctic seawater, and my own ongoing grief and sore hollow heart-space in which my brother lives… it all seems to be adding up to a life that does not feel very good these days.
For many of us, I’m sure.
Answers? Got none.
Except, I suppose, to stop breaking my own rules.
What are these rules? Pretty simple, actually.
The first: no computers (and cellphones) in bed in the morning.
The second: write.
The problem, though, is that I’m a rebel.
I preach the need for a solid, steady creative practice often (including in my online course) – and I do that because I know how frigging hard it can be.
Sometimes the ground falls out from under you and while I’m aware that this is the most important time to maintain said practice, it can also be the toughest.
That phrase – what’s the point? – wings its way through my mind until I find I’m scrolling through tweets at 7:30 a.m., burning out my fresh morning brain. You should be writing, the inner voice says, but I shrug it aside like a teenager falling asleep on her desk, assignment abandoned.
And then, morning gone, potential writing time over, and I feel like crap.
And once the crap-feeling’s taken hold, there’s A LOT these days to nourish it.
A little while ago, I wrote a post about how – for various reasons – I don’t think that writer’s block exists. It’s easy, I argued, to call something writer’s block when really it’s something else: apathy, fear, laziness (usually fear).
I stand by that, so I know that my not-writing is a few different things to do with books-in-progress, being in limbo, needing more creative food, the crazy state of the world.
I also know that there are other moving parts to feeling better – exercise, addressing tasks that need to get done, making time for friends and family, remembering that I’m grieving, etcetera.
But I know these things like I know I really shouldn’t eat the entire bag of chips….. Oh.
That’s the rebel in me.
Nobody cares if you write, I say in my course.
This is the truth.
But when I finally circle back – during times like this and/or bouts of professional jealousy and/or attacks of uncertainty about my work – what I arrive at is that, well, I have to, don’t I?
I have to care enough to remember that I’m not just writing to publish stuff. I’m writing because I must, because without writing, this sort-of stuck-ness happens and this dark world doesn’t seem joyful at all nor, actually, does it even make much sense.
I have to simply because it’s good for me. Like swallowing my morning thyroid pill in half sleep, half an hour before coffee (and I rebel against that some days too).
So here I am, taking responsibility (the very first point on this excellent post about feeling sane in a crazy world).
This is me writing down my commitment. This is me saying, sigh, here’s how tomorrow morning will go: no phone first thing, minimum ten minutes of writing, an effort to spruce up my shelter in this stormy, crazy world.
Your openness and honesty is a gift, Lauren; thank you.
Many years ago I had a traumatic time that completely blew my ability to do art (I was living on my printmaking at the time, so that was a serious problem). It happens, Lauren. Don’t kick yourself. Just try tomorrow for that manageable ten minutes. And don’t buy chips. 🙂
Love and hugs, Elizabeth
Thanks, Elizabeth 🙂 Yes, I think I’m probably being too hard on myself, but I did write for 15 mins yesterday morning. Realizing that there’s an essay I need to get out of my system – & it’s a tough one to write. And, actually, I’m still on the Keto diet I posted about a few weeks back so the chips were pretty much fiction (artistic license, right?) Hugs back. Hope you’re well!
I’m there too…wasting time online…I call it research…I call reading blog posts and watching YouTube learning..and then I need to do my other work and then…by afternoon…I’m mad at myself for not writing….but then, the next morning, I wake up to that reminder on my phone to “write”. If only I’d shut the phone off at that point!
PS I think I told you before that I’ve lost both parents but I think losing my brother (11 months older than me) a little less than two years ago was the hardest. I still have moments but it is easier now. Every time I read your posts, I feel your pain!
We could always start an online support group to get writing but I suppose that would defeat the purpose of staying off the grid, right?
I think that online support group is probably a good idea… & have actually discussed it with a couple people. I’ll keep you posted. Sibling loss is so very hard – I feel sort-of perplexed and at-a-loss as to how to live the rest of my life without my big bro. It helps that others like you understand. Sending love.
Hear! Hear! Speaking from the other side of the coin, I’m with you and I’ve been spinning in a very similar way. Thanks for laying it bare. For calling it — and thereby calling me on it. Helps me to get back to what I know I want to be doing.
I’ll meet you there – bright and early Monday morning 🙂
I have no concept of wrier’s block, but I truly believe grieving changes our playing field, including the rules and sometimes the name of the game. Time for mindful slowness, looking for joy, journal or write letters, make lists of any things, and keep the faith.
Thanks, Ruth. I will keep this in mind. Before Tim died, I didn’t know grief like I know grief now. & you’re right: that’s part of it too.
You know yourself better than anyone, Lauren, but from where I sit, I think you might be too hard on yourself. You’re still in the early stages of a devastating loss. I’ve found in those early days/months that focus is difficult– no wonder you’re looking at your cell. Not to mention the fact we all are struggling these days — the ongoing horror show that is #45 and his destabilizing of this planet must strike a chord of deep terror in the minds of anyone with any compassion or conscience. All of which to say, it’s amazing you’re managing as well as you are. Congrats on your discipline — it’s quite remarkable. xo
Yeah. It’s a weird mix of things – as in the post, but also including the fact that writing is the best way I’ve found to manage grief but it’s therefore sometimes so hard to go there… I am too hard on myself 🙂 Trying not to be, but the ground feels so shaky (personally, and b’c of all you’ve said) and discipline keeps me grounded. Thanks for your kind words – they are appreciated. Xo.
So much on your plate, Lauren. It’s important to give yourself a little grace, too. I’ve been thinking lately how much effort it takes to do the things that ultimately help us to feel good. There is so much resistance to writing, or exercise, or putting the damn phone away! I have to drag myself kicking and screaming to the page, to the mat, to my running shoes…away from the bag of chips. Ha. Why are our comfort habits so crappy, and the good ones so difficult to do? I’m so happy that you’re committing to 10 minutes tomorrow morning. 10 minutes is manageable. You’ve got this. Much love to you. xo
Thanks, Tara 🙂 Yes, I’m trying to keep that in mind… and cut myself some slack (or as you say, grace – I like that). I think I can do 10 minutes but even if I don’t make it, but just manage to not bring my phone to the bed, and read a couple chapters in somebody’s else’s book, I’ll be okay with that. The point is to keep trying – which I tell so many people, and now have to tell myself 🙂 Lots of love back (& thank you so much again for your support).