Sometimes you need to get away from the computer, the writing room and the library.
I find that putting myself around the extraordinary enriches me and my writing. This past Monday, I landed in Paris at 7am. I headed to my hotel, dropped off my bags and headed full steam into the Louvre.
Direct flights are amazing. You leave at dinner time and arrive in Paris for breakfast. You're at the Louvre by lunch time.
January is a wonderful time...less tourists. Terrorism also reduces crowds. I spent a few quiet moments with Venus, here photographed. What I love about her is the timelessness of her look.
When I see her face, I always feel as if I know her. Marble can be so ironically warm and close.
The past few days in between meetings, presentations and research, I have rolled around in the extraordinary and feel so enriched and ready to pour it all forth into my writing.
Greatness is elevating. I like art...I like sculpture, the impressionists and the astonishing ballet rehearsal I just saw at the Paris Bastille Opera House. I like well made clothes, fresh baked Madeline served by the Chef.
But of course the extraordinary isn't just in Paris. It's the pure laugh of a child, the unrestrained joy of a puppy on the metro trying to grab the angry lady's pant leg. It's a fuzzy new hat bought on a cold rainy day.
When you're burnt out on writing, get near the extraordinary. That includes the friend who makes you laugh until your stomach is sore.
There is something, though, about great writing, high art, and astonishing performances. They do elevate and inspire. It's as if they vibrate at a higher frequency. If you're feeling uninspired or find yourself too weighted down by the world's problems to stand up, get near greatness.
Great basketball players, great dancers, whatever it is. You will remember...and before you know it you will be back creating more for yourself and the world.
I've been spending some time (through books) with author Nathalie Goldberg. She wrote something that seemed so counter-intuitive and so true about writing that I just had to share it.
She wrote, "when you see something you want, back up three steps and wait."
Goldberg's statement flies against everything we learn in the American "can-do" culture which tends to be about action and volume.
But sometimes you really just do need to walk away. I have been spinning around about this article. I closed my article and then worked on something else. When I came back to it, I saw it with new eyes.
It's not always about plowing through. Sometimes things move along more easily when we just recognize and acknowledge the pain points and then gently come back to them.
If you have ever given or received a massage you may know this. You cannot just dive in and grind out the knots. (If you have tried rolfing you know how painful that approach can be). The knots will release, however, if you sneak up on them...come at them sideways and work them out slowly and over time.
Writing can be the same way. If you're feeling stuck don't just put grease on your elbow and try to grind it out. Step back, do something else, and then come back to it.
FYI- this also tends to work for conflicts in your life...but for now, let's just stay focused on the writing.
When I think about and prepare for intensive writing periods, the image of a whale comes to mind. Whales come to the surface -- daily life -- suck in some air and then descend unapologetic away from the human world to do their work beneath.
Intensive writing periods can feel like this. You can come up for air -- meet with friends, have dinner with your family, call your mom, take out the trash -- and then you must bid your goodbyes suck in all the love and human connnection and dive back down.
Writers Can Feel Like They Are Swimming Alone for Long Periods
During our happy holidays phone call, a family friend shared her belief that "a writer's life is a lonely one." I do not experience the work as lonely because it can feel so connected to something greater. When I connect with people between sessions, I have a full self to share.
That said, it can feel uncertain. You're swimming along in the words, wondering "Is this any good?"
As Dory told Nemo's father "Just Keep Swimming." Think of the whale. They trust their inner guidance going great distances without a GPS. True sometimes military testing throws them off just as wars may throw us off.
That said, most of the time, if you are willing to suck down the air you need, descend below and swim around separate from the kerfuffle above, you'll connect with this mystical writers space...one that few people dare to explore.
When you come back up, you'll be so proud of yourself, you might feel inspired to do one of these...
Sarah Federman, PhD