Writing and Gentleness
“Hopefully you can take some time for yourself,” said my mentor, once my thesis went in. And I smiled and nodded and laughed inside, because please, there’s always something else that needs doing: another story that needs writing, or scheme that needs plotting, or a novel waiting in the docket. I like working. I do better when I’m busy. I do not idle well.
Except I’m very, very tired. One early night turned into two, which turned into a slow week, which turned into sluggish anxiety over everything I want to do and everything I’ve not yet started.
Not writer’s block. Writer’s block usually comes from fear—or an innate problem in the work that hasn’t yet been acknowledged. I’m not scared; I know what I want to write. I know how to do it. A novel’s emerging from the mist and I have five-ish short stories pressing on me. They’re developing themselves very slowly, but the work is good—I know it is.
Except I’m very, very tired.
I couldn’t figure out why. Regular iron supplements have kept me out of anaemia for weeks. For the first time in years, I’m getting sufficient sleep on a regular basis. The cold I was fighting earlier this winter is long gone. I’m happy. Aside from, you know, the whole tired thing.
Then I realized that we’re about midway through December. And I realized it’s the same damn thing that I deal with every year.
I’m pretty sure it’s the quality of light that does it. See, in December, there’s a certain grey slant to the light—especially in the late afternoon. It’s completely unlike the light in November or January. It’s almost funny—in so many ways, we try to divorce ourselves from natural light. Fluorescent bulbs and backlit screens and searchlights probing from the Air Canada Centre. Then December rolls around with its flat grey light and some lizard part of my brain wakes up and says, “Oh. Oh. When the light looks like this, very bad things happen.”
There are other things, too. There’s the weight of the wind, and the way the air smells, and all the seasonal reminders. But mostly, it’s the light.
So, great. It’s the psychological equivalent of an old wound acting up again. Where does that leave me?
A few years ago, I would’ve tried to push through. I would’ve beaten myself up for not writing more, faster, now. I would’ve seethed with self-directed frustration. Now…maybe I’ve mellowed in my old age. Or maybe I’ve just learned a thing or two.
Sometimes, you need to rest. And sometimes, you need gentleness. This is not a race, and you do yourself no favours by charging ahead on an empty tank. For myself—I’ve learned that mid-December is likely never going to be a particularly productive time. And that’s okay. I am human. I am allowed to rest and read Agatha Christie stories and drink hot chocolate and go to bed early. No babies will die if I write those five-ish short stories in two weeks, instead of right now this second.
Besides: my off-season is coming. Better to rest now and then make the best use of my uninterrupted writing time. And yes, there’s a small part of me that cringes at that, feeling like I’m giving up.
But I’m not. I’m looking at the long game. 😉
What I’m Listening To This Week
So for everything I just said about taking time for myself, I am very casually and informally turning a novel over in my brain. Nothing beyond general musings and some whiteboard sketching. But, I did find this song, which jolted something loose in the old noggin.
Besides being an Irish dance spectacular, “Lord of the Dance” is a modern hymn borrowing the tune of an earlier one. I heard it once, and it was catchy. I heard it again, and around 1:45, I got slammed with a flood of feeling and images and dialogue that I’m pretty sure is the climax of this story. That seems to be how I plot: flailing about until serendipitous music sets me right.
But oh…oh, I can see my protagonist…