Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Note to Self: Write Your Way Back

I hope you are well, my friends.  Here, life has been filled with work--lots of work--some sunshine, some almost unbearably sad days, some hectic ones, a few nights by the fireplace, more work, some serious pie baking for holidays and birthdays, and little time for writing my own stuff or taking photos--even silly iPhone photos.   December looks to be a bit wild, too, but I have promised myself that I will steal time every day for my own creative work.  I always tell my students and clients that no matter how crazy life gets, there is always, always, always time to write, always time to create.  And it's true.  I spend most of my days helping others with their creative processes, and while I LOVE every minute of it, I sometimes break my own rules and forget about my own process.  The fact is, there are always deadlines to be met.  There is always more work to be done.  We simply have to turn away from the noisy demands of life on a regular basis, seek quiet and solitude, and focus on creating.  I don't mean creating for yet another deadline or another editor; I mean creating for the pure joy of it.

The photo above is one I took in early November, right after Mr. Magpie and I returned from a trip to Sweden, where he had a literature conference.  I took hundreds of photos there, and I promise to show you a few inspiring ones, but in the meantime there's this shot, which, for me, was all about stealing an hour or so of quiet one day to set up my beat-up chalkboard, this lovely copper vase that belonged to my memere, and some fading flowers from my garden.  The little hanging votive lantern is something I discovered in a sweet shop in Uppsala, Sweden.  I didn't process the shot until about three weeks later.  I'm not kidding when I say that I've just really struggled to find moments in the day for quiet joy.  And when I do take a few moments, it's not long before I feel a rising panic inside my chest, a sense that things are undone.  I'll start to work on a poem or a photo shoot, and then I'll remember all the leaves that haven't been raked yet, the window that needs fixing, the lecture I haven't written, the new course I haven't even started to plan, oh, and, of course, the laundry I haven't finished--ever.  And then there are all the personal commitments to people that I feel I'm just not honoring.  It can be crushing, this feeling.  I know that you likely know it well.

However, there is a worse feeling.  The one that happens when I don't write the poem or set up a beautiful shot in some softly lit corner of the house.  Todd told me the other day that he met a fellow scholar at a recent conference.  She asked him what his wife does for work.  When he told her that I'm a writer and freelance photographer, a writing teacher, an editor, and an obsessed amateur gardener, her reply was, "Oh, she's a maker!"  Todd later told me what she said, and I felt, well, a little sad, because I haven't felt much like a maker this fall.  I've written a ton, but all of it has been for other people's deadlines.  I've actually felt lost, a million miles away from my own creative center.  

I help other people overcome this same problem pretty much every week, so it's a bit odd to be feeling it myself.  Thus, I'm taking my own advice: when you feel lost and far, far away from yourself--I mean your real self, the maker, the crafter, the dreamer, the alchemist--write (or paint or sculpt or dance) your way back.  Imagine a path in the forest. Your process is right there in front of you.  You left a trail of bread crumbs as you wandered far from home.  You'd forgotten that you always leave those bread crumbs, but you do.  You always do.  Just follow them back.  Every single day.  Forget the laundry mountain in the distance.  Forget the dark and frightening forest full of undone tasks.  Forget your fear of what might be around the next bend in the path.  Just do what you do.  You'll find your way home.