I’m just coming off a summer of feeling stuck as a writer. Seriously, I was the Virginia Woolf rocks-in-my-pockets kind of down over my persistent lack of flow, especially because writing—and writing prolifically—is an integral part of how I define myself.
For the longest time, I took my standard beating-my-head-against-the-wall approach. I forced myself to sit at my desk. I scrawled words on pages, even though I felt like they sucked. (And, by the way, they did). I read a ton of books for inspiration; I quit reading for a while in order to better hear my own voice. Nothing helped.
Ironically, I think I needed to stop striving toward writing in order to rediscover it.
Over the past few months, as I battled my muse, I’ve become acutely aware that life is fleeting—that my kids are hurtling toward the days when they will head off to college, my parents are getting older, my friends may move on…this all sounds depressing, but that’s not my point. My point is that when I keep reminding myself that all things in life are of limited duration, it makes it easier for me to “make the wise choice” (to quote Rush Hour) and focus on what’s really important.
What’s really important?
Family. Friends. Faith. Writing. Not necessarily in that order.
So: I’ve been doing more of those things I always put off because I have too much to do. For instance, my dad has been asking me to go elk hunting with him for the past 20 years—and a few weeks ago, I went!* No, I’m not a hunter and no, I’m not a bow hunter—but nonetheless, I spent five days camping in the mountains outside Steamboat, Colorado with my dad and his horse, Baby. I got to hear elk bugle and grouse explode out of the underbrush, and on one particularly exciting day, I got to pick my way along cliffs and boulders and fields littered with windfallen trees in the fading light, as we circled our way back to camp.
In other words, it was an adventure—an adventure with my dad the likes of which I haven’t had since I was a kid.
The funny thing is that, even though I’ve been spending more time living life and less time hunched over my computer, I’m paradoxically beginning to write more. It seems that the more free I am with my life, the more freely the words flow.
Or maybe I just needed to rest long enough to rediscover the joy of writing.
In any case, I’m back at the page and yes, it’s a joyous thing! I’m rewriting one book, playing with ideas for another, and I have several novels in the queue for revision as soon as I have time (not to mention all the standard “paying” writing work I collect). As always, I’m trying to tackle too much at once.
But—by keeping my focus on the important things, the rest of life seems to fall into place.**
*No elk were harmed in the making of this blog post, although we might have annoyed a few.
**Well, the rest of life except for laundry. I haven’t quite figured out where that fits in my priority list….