The art of being Californian, it seems, is to cultivate a loose-limbed insouciance while secretly working away like a frantic ant.

--Richard Fortey The Earth: An Intimate History

Thursday, December 22, 2011


I've been thinking a lot about my newly-acquired and appalling resistance to writing. It has something to do with the state of being I have to achieve before I can write. And no, this is not some ephemeral flash of creativity; it is something that happens with daily discipline and training.  It happens with work. I used to enjoy the work--even when it wasn't productive and was often frustrating. I still think about how I would like to write. I make plans to be disciplined. I make lists, long-term and short-term goals; I sign up for programs that will encourage me to write a certain number of words a day.

And then.




I don't write. I doodle. I run errands. I clean. I cook. I call up a friend I haven't spoken to in a while. I read. I find a million other legitimate reasons to ignore that what I really need to do is set pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and just. freaking. write.

And then a day goes by. And then another. And a week. And then a month. And now it is almost the end of this year and I haven't written in weeks both for my book and for my own personal sanity. 

I initially told myself that this drought of words was sign of my depression. And there was nothing I could do about it. I spun a narrative that kept me trapped in a desert devoid of joy and creativity. I indulged in my acedia. I mentally hunkered down to just move through my life until I reached a better time for writing--until my life was worth experiencing again.

But what does that mean really?  Life is worth experiencing when we decide to actually participate in it.  I just didn't want to participate. I didn't want to expend the effort to really see my world around me. It is easier to put my head down and just let the days flow over rather than raising my face, opening my mouth, and drinking in all that my life is: the bitter, the sweet, the sorrow, the joy, the mundane, the heart-racing, the difficult, the peaceful, the wretched, the beautiful. It's easier to keep my head down and let the hours pass. And pass they do. That is one thing. Time continues. Life continues whether you are there or not. So then you have choice: to participate or to live without perception. If I choose the latter, I know for a fact that I will look back at my life with all of its amazing wonders with deep regret.

I don't know exactly what I am going to do with this new awareness. I know what I should do (and I am making plans to do it), but then I have days like yesterday where I consciously refused to actually experience the moment when the silvered air moved across a cobalt bay because I would have opened a door to experiencing other things too.  It was easier to keep my head down and let the hours pass. This attitude both disgusts and scares me.  Yet I don't stop. I can't stop. I am frozen.

I started reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird again. In the introduction, she talks about hope:
Hope is a revolutionary patience; let me add that so is being a writer. Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up.



Do good.

I think I can do that. At least, it's a start.