Going to Work

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work… There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”
– Toni Morrison 

A few Sundays ago I woke up to the sound of my daughter rustling in her room. I glanced at the window. Dark. Not a drop of light.

I crept next door and handed her my phone. “See you at seven,” I said reminding her about our deal. After a quick kiss, I closed the door softly behind me.

Coffee was waiting. The house silent and still. It was already 6:45, my time limited. I began to write.

When my daughter came downstairs, the sun had risen. The backyard was bathed in watery autumn light. It was 7:30. I had written almost 500 words.

Full disclosure: I began this post before the election. Before the world seemed more unhinged than ever (to me). Before Standing Rock, before Trump’s appointments, each one just as bad (if not worse) than the one before.

It’s hard to write during times like this. Write my own story, I mean. How can it compete with the global stories happening right now?

Well, it can’t. But writing is what I do, it’s how I survive. In times of struggle, my own and the world’s. My other work, helping to create a community that is inclusive and safe for all people is something I will continue to do. But I must also write. I can’t let myself be paralyzed or muted by my own feelings of helplessness, despair, or fear.

It’s easier, so much easier, to stay in bed. When the world feels safe, and even more so when it doesn’t.

staying-in-bed

But I won’t. I’ll get up instead.

I’ll go downstairs and write. Watch the birds at the feeder, maybe catch a glimpse of my favorite red fox, or watch the squirrels and bunnies nibble on leftover clover. I’ll be grateful for my privilege to do this.

I used to think I needed hours to write, but it’s not true. Becoming a mother turned me (by necessity) into an incredibly efficient writer. I have no time to waste, so I wring out every available minute. I’ll write in scraps when I must. Scraps add up to hours. Hours add up to pages. Pages to manuscripts.

It’s taken me years to understand what is most crucial in my writing practice – staying present. Not leaping ahead to the unknown.

The only thing I can do is wake up. Sit at my desk. Greet the screen. Put my fingers on the keys. Follow my story for as long as I can.

We all have our own version of this, whether we are artists or not. Being human is enough to make this vital choice. To see light when the world seems so, so dark.

 

I’m pleased to be linking up with Writing Bubble’s What I’m Writing 

What-Im-Writing-linky-badge

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33 thoughts on “Going to Work

  1. Good for you lovely lady, sounds like your writing is flying high. The world is a very dark place right now, but we mustn’t let it stop us from writing… to be honest, I write my most inspiring stuff during my darkest moments, and I know for a fact that I’m not alone. Keep on keeping on 🙂 #whatimwriting

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  2. Fantastic. It is so hard to let go of the image of hours of time. It’s just not realistic for so many of us and what you’re saying about getting down to business in the moments you can– so true.

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  3. Thank you so much for this. It’s been so hard for me to write this past week. I have stayed in bed, crept past my journals and laptop, thought about how churned up I feel inside and worried because writing is usually the balm for that but I haven’t even been able to approach it. I think I just need to sit down and get to it!

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    • My dear Emily, I am honored to have helped you in any way. I loved your post. It’s been so hard to write post election. 3 weeks have passed since my last post, too, and this one was in the queue for a while, but it wasn’t grave enough, you know? I had to adjust it to be less about “writing tips” and more about “holy crap the world is on fire but still here I am.” So glad to know you and your words. That group of yours (in addition to the amazing food) sounds like such a balm.

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  4. There is so much I empathise with here. As always your words are beautiful and something about the way you spin them brings me comfort. I wrote a post last week about art and healing – about how at times like this art (in all its forms) might seem fluffy but actually it’s more important than ever, not only to soothe ourselves and help us heal but also to spread understanding and empathy. Sometimes art can connect us in ways we don’t expect. Keep up your writing, my friend. Thanks for linking to #WhatImWriting xxx

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    • Maddy, your words are as kind and sincere as your beautiful smile! Thank you. I must read that previous post of yours because I agree that art and healing go hand in hand. Have you heard of The Inky Path? My friend Jena is cofounder and wrote a beautiful prompt this morning that says just what you wrote. I’ll have to forward it to you or tag you on FB. Keep writing indeed. xo

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  5. I feel exactly the same way and have been spontaneously crying since the election. It’s also forcing me to do more though – more writing, more voicing of opinions. The dreamers were too quiet before the election, now at least we’ve been shocked into doing more. Now more than ever, it’s important to keep writing and dreaming, while putting those dreams into action.

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    • Thank you Sheila, and I agree, many dreamers were too quiet before the election (myself included). So important to put words and thoughts into action, and into art. xo

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  6. I was talking to a friend about writing the other day. He is retired and lives alone. He said he can’t write when he knows he’ll only have three hours because he’s got another appointment that day. Ha ha, I wouldn’t know what to do with three hours, but I look forward to finding out! I’m like you, I write when I can, and I love that I can. It’s hard to feel it’s worth it in this world, but it’s worth it to keep the flame of hope alive. Even if I’m only writing for me, it’s something. Thanks.

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    • Ha, that sounds like me BEFORE kids. When you have days spread out before you, one little interruption seems like an earthquake. Now I’ll take what I can get. “It’s worth keeping the flame of hope alive.” Yes. And the flame of creativity. xo

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  7. I think that many us are finding comfort in writing, and a way of processing how we feel (and what we can do) about current events. I love the quiet comfort in your words, and the strength of conviction. #whatimwriting

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  8. The early morning is a special time, when no-one else is around. Its my favourite time of day, so grounding for what is to come ahead, but also the hardest one to grab hold of. I need to write too and the act of sitting down to do it is half the battle for me, I should join the two up more often; mornings and writing. Thanks for reminding me. x

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  9. I really love this post, and empathise with it so much. I have completely lost my writing mojo over the past couple of months – I’m bursting with ideas, but just cannot find the inner calm to turn them into words. I realised today that I need to make the effort to get myself into that place, and remembered how much I enjoy getting up early to write when I make myself do it. Before I got started on my to do list today I organised the fragments of short stories I’ve collected into a Scrivener project so that is now where I am going to be heading in the mornings before the humdrum of the day fills up my brain. Thank you for the added inspiration xx

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    • Sophie, thank you so much for this comment. This resonates for me, how lately you “cannot find the inner calm to turn” thoughts into words. I know. I’ve been feeling that, too. So glad you managed to organize some writing in Scrivener. I’ve been using that program for my memoir and am enjoying it. Keep it up as much as you can. xo

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  10. Honestly, I’ve been in a total writing funk since November 9th.
    Just yesterday, I decided I need goals to get un-stuck. I’m stubborn, so when I agree to something, I almost always finish (except NaNo. DANG it. November sucked me dry).

    So this morning I got up with a fresh notebook and pen, lit a candle, and set my timer for 2 minutes to meditate. Then 10 minutes to write. And I’m going to do this every day through the rest of December and January. Even though I’m hosting Christmas and will have family staying here for at least 5 days.

    Even though my heart is still aching.

    Even though I’ve had some personal setbacks.

    Even though I’m plagued with self-doubt. World-doubt.

    Even though.

    I’m doing this again. So reading your post right now was just perfect.
    Thank you.

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    • Julie, it always makes me happy to see your name in comments. I saw your new notebook on Instagram and cheered for you. I love how you light a candle before writing. I need to add that to my ritual, in addition to coffee 🙂 Meditation, too. Sometimes it’s hard to just hit the ground running, or rather, sitting. I love your December and January writing goal! It’s possible, it really is. xo

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  11. Dana I love this post, so honest and inspiring. I use to get up and write in the mornings. This year my art took over and I lost the passion. I think I became overwhelmed with all the writing advice I read. Just the other morning after my yoga session I felt that wonderful feeling, the one where I wanted to revisit one of my novels. I sat and wrote a flash forward in the hope it would start my story off with a bang. I think after reading this post I must try and write even for ten minutes a day. Thank you for sharing your experience I wish you much writing joy in 2017.

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