Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Invictus, I guess, and maybe some writing inspiration

Are you finding you're having good weeks and bad weeks in coping mentally with the way we live now?

This isn't meant to be a complaint. I have nothing to complain about--no child care to worry about, enough space & time to walk, the strength to get my own groceries (23rd Psalm motto: my mask and my gloves, they comfort me), a car, etc.

But at the end of the day, I'm hard pressed to say what I did, especially in terms of intellectual work.
  • Some days it's a few hours of meetings: some colleagues, when I say "we've been on Zoom for 90 minutes; it's time to wrap up" will say "just this one thing then." Sometimes I simply say "gotta go" and bail anyway. But that still leaves a lot of time to read & write, so why don't I?
  • Some days--well one day every 2-3 weeks--it's grocery day, so I mask up (I only have one mask, having lost the other) and drive around and get what we need. I come home, do the Silkwood shower, and get to work, or try to. 
  • Some days it's sit and obsess about the fall classes, which are not totally online, even though I'm trying not to. 
  • Some days, once I've gone for a long walk, which I try to do every day, I just want to admire the trees. 
  • If I do an article or manuscript review, well, then--I'm done, right?
  • There's always cooking and baking and some laundry, but I look forward to those tasks, because I get to watch old comforting TV then and not otherwise, a self-imposed rule. Spouse has always done the laundry, but he has backed off after seeing from my woebegone face that I couldn't spend 20 minutes watching The Crown or The Office if I weren't folding clothes.
Last week was the week of magical thinking about writing.
  • If I sit down to write before breakfast, I will write.
  • If I walk first, before breakfast, I will write.
  • If I walk, then shower, then eat breakfast, I will write.
  • If I change it up and eat, then walk, then shower, I will write.
  • If I start at 8:30, I will get in the habit of it and write.
 You get the picture. I figured that there was a magical sequence to daily activities and if I could just get the sequence right, the writing would follow. It was a helpless feeling: oh, no, I've got the sequence wrong. Too bad about today!

Then on Monday something snapped: it's just writing. There is no magic sequence. It's just writing. If you break out in a fidgety cold sweat when you sit down to write, well, pick up a book and start reading, and you'll want to write fast enough.

Someone Being Wrong on the Internet is nothing to Someone Being Incomplete in a Book for getting your writing juices going.

I control the process. Me, not magic sequences. It may be lousy, but what comes out is still writing.

Henley's words*:

I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

*Yes, I know: imperialism, yadda yadda, but it helped in the moment. 


gwinne said...

Yeah, I hear you. For me the ability to write seems to be dependent upon: (1) knowing I have the time, (2) planning what I'm going to do with that time, (3) writing anything else if the plan isn't working. Now I should go do exactly that.

xykademiqz said...

Some days I have the energy and things move and love is in the air (it's not, but it feels like it is) and I feel I can move mountains and then I do. To me, the key is to ride these waves when they come for as long as they lasts. But after I've completed a big body of work, I need a break. I can't jump in immediately, even though I probably should. But time for deep work has been in short supply during the pandemic, and even without it my enthusiasm for work has significantly diminished WRT what it was once upon a time. It takes a lot of get going on most days (weeks)? And if I'm being honest, I don't even care that much. I do work to stay out of trouble and move graduate students along, but I am not burning for it the way I once did. Maybe that's OK. I still seem to be doing just fine according to external metrics.

I've been doing fiction sprints every two weeks, which has provided a nice framework. Every two weeks I have a skeleton of a new story that I can work on; these stories probably wouldn't exist otherwise. Creative writing makes me really happy.

I know we have similar personality types, so maybe it would help to adopt the whole chaos goddess approach and work like a, well, chaos goddess, when inspired, otherwise fart around on Twitter. That's what I do anyway.