My deadline is two days away, and this newsletter essay is nowhere near done. No writing has actually occurred yet, per se. Over these past weeks, I haven’t been ticking through essay ideas like a good girl, or exercising my fingers at the keys. In fact, I have only a hazy memory of what a keyboard looks like.
So on Monday, instead of writing, I think it's wiser to read a chapter of Creative Trespassing by Tania Katan. I like the ideas in this book. I like Tania. I would very much like for Tania to write my newsletter. I smile at the hummingbird feeder while I think how to propose the idea to Tania.
Then I begin to consider the meaning of sand, and those rocks that need shoveling at the end of our driveway. When I feel hungry-ness coming on, I smear almond butter on toast, and nibble it slowly. The living room is coated in this sweet, honey-colored light.
I tiptoe into my office.
Papers clutter my writing space. Across the room, my art desk beams with color. There’s my purply book-in-progress: a 3”x4” journal sewn from minty green paper. The cover looks too shiny. It needs something, but what is it? This artsy problem needs figuring out, but I remember my writing deadline. I step back.
Looks like some of my recent activities -- so compelling as I near this deadline! -- are not actually the same as writing my newsletter. Like:
Washing water spots off the kitchen windows
Sweeping as I listen to Patrick Taylor’s An Irish Country Wedding
Driving to the post office
Munching oatmeal spice Clif Bars
Meditation, yoga or prayer
Worrying about finishing this essay
Worrying about everything else
Watching the birds
On my writing desk my Louise Hay affirmation calendar says “Miracles continually occur in my life.” I hang onto this, then sit at my desk and start to write.
I write while I question whether to visit the thrift store this week. I write as I wonder about my mother's offer of that circular 9' rug. I write though I'd rather design that document that'll catalog every poem title I've read in class since 2017. I write though I wonder what the heck I'm doing. Erased from memory is that once strong voice that used to sing to me on a daily basis: Time to start writing, girl. Let’s go!
Now, how to hear that voice again?
Some tasks are so much a part of our routines they seem effortless. Like maybe you have a habit of watering your plants each week, or completing your taxes on time, or helping your kids with their homework? You know the benefits of your actions. And, unlike me and my writing problems, you don’t ponder what stuff you’d rather do instead. You just do these tasks, again and again. No griping. No daydreaming.
Recently the podcast Hidden Brain aired an inspiring episode: "Creatures Of Habit: How Habits Shape Who We Are — And Who We Become". The show talks about how to get into that groove doing something you want to do that requires effort and practice. We know that to change we need more oomph than advice like this: Do thing x! It’ll improve your life!
The solutions for setting up new habits (or resolutions!) are many. The podcast explains it all beautifully. But in general, we need happy little motivations to drive us into action, and friction placed between us and the captivating land of distractions.
So. I have lots of work to do!
I want to send peppy and useful newsletters every month. I want to work on my creative writing every week and send the done stuff out the door. I want to make such friends with my writing that meeting the keyboard is no longer a shock. I want to giggle at my perfectionism and keep writing. Until then...
This is me stumbling through newsletter-writing after a six-month hiatus. This is me stringing together a few vague thoughts in two days and hoping for the best. I feel something like a first grader. But we first graders gotta start somewhere. And because today is my deadline, I’m not going to buff this thing any longer. My two writing days are up!
Here's to good habits and strong voices. Happy new year!