Now that I’ve started up my Wednesday Writer’s Sequestration (as I’m humorously terming it to make it sound more official when I describe it to people who want me to do things on Wednesdays), I’ve been feeling amazingly more inspired about writing in general. This caused me to think about space. Not outer space, but inner, I guess you might call it – mental space.
I’m the sort of person who is very good at staying busy. It’s sort of a pitfall, actually. I can always invent a project for myself, even if it’s something more or less trivial, like reorganizing my desk. The problem with that, though, is that when I need to do something I’m not exactly relishing (read: editing novels), I can think of a legitimate-sounding project to substitute.
I was beginning to become desperate about my future as a writer, though.
For a couple of months, I could find no energy to write, and even worse, no inspiration. No lines for poems came to my mind; adding blog posts seemed tedious and overwhelming. The three novels I have to edit were looming over me, somehow shutting down all my interest in doing any writing at all as long as I didn’t face them.
So to console myself, I pulled more and more projects into my life: cooking, preserving, sewing, cleaning, organizing, gardening, and all the while work was getting busier and busier as we entered our hectic summer season. I was even using social obligations as an excuse. The result was that I became so genuinely busy that I no longer had any time to write.
This seemed like a bad situation for someone who decided at age fourteen to be a professional writer.
About two months ago, just as I was starting to wonder if I’d ever write again, I decided I needed to stage an intervention for myself. So I picked a day of the week and told myself that I would get take-out after work, come home and make my lunch for the next day, shower, let the dog play, and then shut myself into my room to eat dinner and write. I would not emerge to talk to anyone or take a break until I’d worked for at least three hours.
I’m happy to say that this plan has been working great. I’ve made it through 9 chapters of House of Mirrors, which had been stagnating for a year. Tonight I’ll do a bit more work on chapter 10. At this rate, I expect to be done with the editing process by early spring next year. I’m actually rather enjoying it. Since the format for this novel was short, vignette-like chapters, I can complete at least one chapter in each editing session, sometimes two or three.
And miraculously, the attack on all that editing has cleared a mental space.
I pushed all my projects out of my Wednesday evenings; I stopped fearing the task of dealing with my waiting novels. There was breathing room for my imagination again. Since starting the writer’s sequestration, I’ve written a poem and a blog post, and now I’m working on my next blog post and another poem. A good trend has been started.
I don’t know if I’ll find it necessary to stick to my Wednesday schedule – perhaps I’ll be able to make space for writing more frequently in shorter bursts – but for now I just feel relieved that I am still a writer. I still have the drive and the ideas that lead to stories and poems. It’s alarming and disheartening to reach a point where one questions the path one chose long ago.
Of course people can alter their directions most dramatically (a blog I once perused was written by an architect who became a restaurateur) but I’m pretty set on the role of writer after all, I think. It’s a good discovery, in that case, to realize that I need to leave some space in my life and in my mind – space to be a writer. It’s good to have mental boundaries and to realize that I can always reserve a bit of my life for writing and in a way, maintaining who I am. I don’t want to sound overly dramatic, but perhaps it’s true that one cannot be oneself if too much is poured into life. After clearing out a little breathing room, I finally feel like myself again.
I’m curious, though. Has anyone else ever found that by trying to keep busy and be a productive, social member of society, they actually end up wondering where they lost themselves along the way? I think that was happening to me these past few months and I am glad to be rediscovering I am a writer after all. I’m sure other people have similar experiences. I’d be interested to read about them!