I have just finished a big project—the novel I’ve been working on for the past few years. I’ve taken some time to catch up on some other business that was neglected in the fervor of the big project, spent a few weeks planning for and teaching another fun and successful Young Writers’ Workshop with my wonderful teaching partner Ann Jacobus, and now I’m going to…
Well, I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do next.
I mean, I have plenty I could do—I have a half finished novel that should be taken apart and started over again. I have lists of ideas for new novels and more niggling at the back of my brain. But writing a novel is a huge commitment—not one you can take lightly and none of my current ideas are really “calling” to me at the moment. Besides, it seems my muse is taking a summer vacation like most everyone else. I’m expecting a postcard from Tahiti any day…
I’m trying not to panic. I don’t like not knowing what I want. Already, I feel an uneasy restlessness creeping up beside me. A restlessness that if quantifed, is basically a wish for a desire.
Luckily, blessedly, sometimes the Universe delivers a little gift right at the moment you sorely need it. One such gift showed up in the form of another blog post last Sunday—an essay by Maria Popova on the importance of boredom, which boils down to the innate discomfort of waiting for something when you don’t know what it is, and won’t know until you find it. Popova examines the writings of psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, who said that the experience of boredom is really the experience of waiting for yourself.
Waiting for yourself. I have to say that struck a nerve. That’s what I feel like I’m doing right now. Apparently, creativity needs occasional boredom—it is the time and space needed for a new desire to take shape. (Hear that, muse? I hope you’re getting good and bored on that lovely beach in Tahiti…)
Throughout the essay, I recognized so much of myself, so many of my own feelings—the association between being “good” and being productive and then the opposite—pairing being unproductive with being “not-so-good.” I certainly recognized the impulse to fill up spare time with busyness, to find a distraction…(like, ahem... checking Facebook and Twitter and email many times an hour.) The deep-seated fear that if you stop doing what you do for even a short time, you won’t know who you are anymore. I mean, how can you be a writer if you’re not writing? (The dualistic question is ‘how can you be a writer if you don’t take time to be present, to observe, to wander…?’)
But I do actually know that it’s so important at times to be still, to be quiet and, I suppose, to let yourself be bored for a while. I’ve told my own writing students that they need to “get off the phone” if they want the muse to call.
So, yes, it’s time to take my own advice and get off the phone.
For a while, at least…
You can all read all of Maria Popova’s excellent essay here.
Take Good Care,