For two months I have been on the move within a twelve mile radius. I was forced to leave my beloved studio (dubbed the treehouse) where I have worked and taught my classes for ten years. There was a lot of stress in finding a place as charming and serviceable as the treehouse has been, and a lot of cleaning out and clearing out and purging and moving to do. And now it is done. Now I can stay still. Or can I?
I find that after any intense period of being on the go, I have trouble being still again. I am restless. I wake up in the middle of the night sure that I’ve forgotten some crucial detail. I have trouble concentrating enough to read a book. I can’t think of how to cook anymore, because I lack the psychic space it takes to organize ingredients. I determine to sit on the couch and do nothing, but it feels as though a bolt of lightning will strike me for such a sin. In short, I have to relearn stillness.
I have to remind myself that I am coming down off something, down off stress, down off movement, down off intensity, and it is like coming off a drug. In America the drug of busyness is a part of our culture. We’re encouraged to be busy. We’re rewarded for it. So, I must relearn stillness while living in a soup of cultural busyness.
The first step I take is awareness. I admit out loud that I have had a ton of stuff to do, and that while I got it done, I also lost my way a bit in the throes of doing. I have been on a long journey. Like Frodo in The Hobbit, things don’t quite feel the same when the journey ends, even though it ends in my kitchen.
The second step is taking a day without placing any sort of demands on myself. I do not try to get anything done in this day. I might dabble in something, but I have no goals. I might read, but the goal is not reading. I might so a little scribbling, but the goal is not writing. I might take a walk, but the goal is not walking. This is a day of zero goals. I let the day unfold. If something feels difficult I don’t do it.
The next day, I take deep breaths and carry on. It helps if I can find pockets of stillness in this day. It helps if I don’t have to dive back into intensity. It helps if I can remember what I was doing before life got so damn busy and try to ease back into that.
Writing a book? Oh, yes. What scene was I on? Who are the characters again? What was the work saying to me when I had to stop listening and attend to moving?
It’s scary to step back into the fictional world. I’m afraid my characters won’t talk with me. I’m afraid the thread has been dropped and lost. I’ve not been a fiction writer for nearly two months now, not one that was writing anyway. Do I still know how?
This fear is real. Reentry is hard. If you’ve dropped your writing for whatever reason, then know that you sit where I sit now. Somehow I have to reenter. And so do you if you want to bring the project to fruition. So take my hand. Let’s wade in together. I’ll work on mine and you work on yours and we’ll know each other is there.