“The easiest thing to do on earth is not to write.” William Goldman
How true I’ve found this to be during this strange interlude we’ve been in, this pandemic, these protests, these scenes of smashing and arson. Like everyone around me, I’ve been struggling just to stay afloat and to find an even keel so I could move forward in some way on my own path.
Just recently, a cherished KWD reader asked me to share whatever has helped me personally to keep going and to keep writing. I have no magic formula, I wish I did. And I can’t say that my boat of writerly intention quickly righted itself after all this began and I sailed merrily on. No! For weeks and weeks, I struggled like everyone else to make sense of it all, to figure out how to stay safe, how to live day to day. Only gradually did I begin to piece together an approach that’s helped me – and put it into action:
I’ve been kind to myself: Early on, I was upset with myself about my lack of discipline and progress. Time was just slipping away. Days, whole weeks went by, and I was still adrift, unable to focus or do any real work. It soon became clear that just about everyone else I knew was in the same boat: It was a simply a human response to an extraordinarily difficult time. So I began to cut myself some slack and gave myself easy tasks to do: doing a little research, reorganizing my files, revisiting an old story.
I renewed my rituals to help ground me: Every day when I write, I turn to a few simple rituals to launch myself. I light a candle and read a few inspirational books to help center me and then I meditate for a while to try to quiet my mind and listen inwardly. Later, at my desk, I light another candle and do a little deep breathing and make a few othe simple gestures and then I begin to work. I find these rituals very soothing: they ease me into my writing. Returning to them in the midst of all the confusion helps center me.
I’ve reframed my outer circumstances: Fairly early on in all this, gifted poet and my dear friend Tara did an uplifting online workshop in which she said that counselors were referring to the pandemic as “The Great Pause.” Later I heard someone else say it helped to think of it as a very long “retreat.” Somehow, for me, reframing what was happening in these ways has helped me not feel quite so besieged. Thinking of all this as “The Great Pause” has helped me view it more positively, as a time to reflect and regroup.
I take a walk every morning: This has been key for me. Every morning, after I write and publish my KWD post, I go for a walk along the same route. It takes about 40 minutes. I hear the birds and see flowers and greenery. Just being outside, absorbing some sun and being in nature lifts my mood. For me, seeing that the natural world is thriving in the midst of all our human confusion is soothing and hopeful. You can also get a nature “fix” by looking at your plants or photos of trees and waterfalls and flowers on line. It helps!
I’ve started working in “chunks” Slowly, very slowly, I began to carve out small chunks of time during the day to be more focused and productive. I learned that “chunking” my time – writing and editing for an hour or so a few times in the day was possible. Gradually, I’ve been able to increase this. Right now, I’m working in two, two-hour stints during the day and taking a break in between. In the evening, I sometimes revisit what I’ve done and fine-tune.
I remember to be grateful: In the midst of all this, it helps me to take a little time each day to jot down a few things I’m grateful for – the small miracles in my life – that delight and uplift me.
I hope you find something that helps you here. Have you come up with any approaches for staying on your own writing path during this trying time that have really worked for you? If so, please let me know! I’d love to share them as we all write on. Blessings!
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