Overturning the Leaf
These last weeks I’ve been immersed in the researching and writing about the art of rest, stillness and daydreams for my Deep Dive manuscript in which I offer tactics to live a creative life.
Spoiler alert: for those among us who disdain daydreaming as a waste of time, I can now conclusively say that those moments or hours you spend staring into space actually make you a more creative, confident, effective and relaxed human being. It’s the tonic, folx.
While I am a big proponent of these acts of rest in theory, in practice I am, like most, an old dog who resists new tricks. And yet, I am committed to practicing what I preach and being submerged in a world of deep thinkers’, researchers’ and creatives’ reflections and conclusions on the topic has been the kick in the behind I need to consider my own revolutionary acts of rest.
I have never written a book like this before, so I am continually surprised when I come around a bend to some new learning. This book, which ostensibly is being birthed so that I can share my own theory and compilation of knowledge that I have garnered on the subject of creativity, continues to teach me even as I write.
The further I get in the mobius strip-like process of reading and writing for this project, the more it seems to fill every part of my consciousness, wake and sleep. I am keenly aware of my brain churning away at the material even when I'm removed from it. The writing has that intense, anticipatory feeling--with every word I wonder what will I discover next. Being pulled from it is akin to the feeling of having to put down a page-turning novel.
I have always written late in the day, afternoon to evening time. It is when my analytical mind is most at rest, exhausted from a morning of doing all the other things that I must do to exist in the world—create curriculum, edit documents, keep up with my blasted website, do my taxes, shop for groceries. By three in the afternoon the chores are done and I can relax into my notebook or computer, sometimes ending as late as seven, sometimes with a glass of wine, like my own private happy hour.
And yet, as the demands of the work I’ve created for myself and love and the things outside of work I love as much—dog walks, husband, chats with the family and friends, cooking, fresh smelling laundry—require my presence, the afternoon writing sessions have begun to shrink from four hours to, when I’m lucky, two. You know what I’m talking about. It’s that thing they mean when they say “life gets in the way.”
I was rambling and wildly gesticulating about my frustration one evening as stew simmered on the stove, and my husband asked a question that made me think about what other creatives have done to circumvent this problem. They get up early, lock themselves in their studios and do their thing before anyone can disturb them. Or they work late at night when everyone else is asleep. They create in the in-between times, even those who make a living from the practice.
I've largely ignored this pattern of other creatives for a couple of reasons. First, I’ve always eschewed doing anything the way it’s always been done. Second, I have been taught a very strong German work ethic from my paterfamilias: you do your work first, and then you can play. As a kid, writing was always the most fun; it was—and is—play. And I’ve resisted thinking of the act of writing as my work because I am afraid that the mere association will turn the magic of putting words on a page into drudgery. And so, morning writing feels terrifyingly close to just that.
Also, what if what I produce in the morning is utter garbage? Or, if not trash, a totally different voice, coming from a different me than the afternoon me?
All that said, my research of late remind some that the flow of “work” is more fluid when we give it space to ebb, roll and return like the tides then what we are more productive, creative and, perhaps most importantly, fulfilled. I’ve learned that we are creating (and therefore, working) even when we are still, or chopping vegetables or folding laundry. In fact, we are working far more effectively by expanding the parameters by which we define work.
This to say—the work is ongoing, ever-flowing and those hours that we hold sacred are simply the time that we deposit the pages, painting, idea or spreadsheet into form.
This morning I took my thermos of coffee to my office at 6:45. I wrote, I meditated, I read and notated a book, I brainstormed, I stared out the window at the bunny tracks in the snow, ate oatmeal and wrote some more. It’s 11 AM now. I haven’t opened my laptop or picked up my phone yet. But damn if I don’t feel like I’ve climbed a mountain.
The moral of the story is this: I must not be so single-dimensional in my outside the box thinking that I neglect to recognize the genius in what so many have found to be the most useful container.