Today began like every other Tuesday this semester. I puttered about the apartment.
I’ll just make some coffee first…then I’ll get to work.
Oh, I need to let out the dog…and it’s too late now to go out in my PJs, must get dressed.
Can’t work in real clothes, must get back into PJs.
Answer some emails. I feel productive now.
Hmm…I really do not like the Kelly & Mike show, or whatever it’s called. I hated Regis even more, though, so I guess it’s improved. But this reminds of the funny SNL skit last week, oh my goodness, they were actually funny for once.
I laugh to myself. The dog looks at me suspiciously out of the corner of his eye.
Check my email. Any emails? I feel productive when I answer emails.
The Today show is a joke.
Definitely take the cash, a Zonk! is totally behind curtain #3! Wayne Brady is a pretty funny guy.
And then, I felt something…A twitch.
What’s this? I look at my hand. What’s going on? And then I hear it.
Almost like a low hum or a buzz. Reminds me of a hummingbird. And then I look to my laptop, sitting on the table.
I open up “that document” … the one that I’ve been pretending was lost in the black hole of the electronic universe. A distant memory of a long forgotten past where I considered myself a prolific writer. It was suddenly open and staring me in the face. Cursor winking at me, ever so encouraging.
…and I start to write.
Procrastinator or “Burn Out” Junkie?
It was beautiful. For the first time in months my fingers were flying across the keyboard. Words were appearing on the screen. My brain was making logical, thoughtful, and intelligent thoughts that were easily translated through my fingertips. Things were making sense again, and all was right with the world.
But why? Why now? What is different about today versus yesterday? Or last week? I think about writing all the time. After all, I never really did forget, I only pretended to forget. Sometimes I would even click through my folders and stare at the document, like a young girl dialing all the numbers of her crush’s phone number except for the very last digit (or, nowadays, without hitting “send”). While at first glance it may appear that the answer lies within my habitual state of procrastination. But upon deeper investigation, it is about identifying the circumstances that influence whether or not I can write.
Or, what I am able to write.
I was able to work on academic journal articles at the beginning of the semester. But I quickly became burned out and overwhelmed. I was (well, am) teaching, taking a class, working on a difficult research project, and trying to write multiple publications. Things were actually going well until personal health problems arose. First, there was the cancer scare (everything turned out okay, but it was a difficult month). Second, my back pain flared up causing me to go to physical therapy for about 8 weeks. Finally, we attended a weekly mindfulness workshop class that was a 3-hour roundtrip drive (and we had to rush to get there on time). I was utterly paralyzed and made no progress whatsoever on writing.
But interestingly, this blogged popped up in the midst of all this. Once I became too overwhelmed to write for academic journals, I started blogging. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a way for me to continue to write without the pressure of academia breathing down my neck. It’s been fun learning the different writing styles and about the whole “blogosphere.” I also think it was a way to keep me sane during this difficult time.
But now things are calming down. The semester is almost over, and both physical therapy and the mindfulness workshop have ended. We had an amazing Thanksgiving weekend together, and I spent nearly two days of taking it easy and doing almost “nothing” (i.e., relaxing). Plus! Our kitchen is clean! So today, I found that I had much less to be stressed about. With a clear(er) mind, I was able to write in that style again.
Now it will be interesting to learn how to balance blogging with writing professionally. However, reflecting on all this made me think of the following quote by Rainer Maria Rilke:
Ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity…
My answer? I must.
What About You?
- Must you write? If yes, why? What does writing mean to you, or what purpose does it serve in your life?
- What “type” of writing do you do?
- What do you do/how do you cope when you find yourself unable to write?