Overcoming Your Slacker Tendencies

Filling the Nooks and Crannies

So how do you write?  It seems like a simple question, but I bet my answer would be different from yours.  In fact, I bet my answer this afternoon would be slightly different from what I’d say tomorrow, or what I would’ve described yesterday.  One thing I know for sure is that, for me, writing is both simple and complex.  On the one hand, I can pretty much pick up a pen or sit at a keyboard and churn out words in quick, easy sentences.  On the other hand, I think and think and think about what I’m going to write, what I just wrote, what I might write at some future date.

And I’ll admit it, sometimes writing feels like a chore.

“I don’t write to be hard on myself,” says Julia Cameron in The Right to Write.  “I write to be easy on myself.  I write because it feels good.”

She’s right – writing does feel good, in much the same way stretching (or yoga) feels good.  I’ve had moments where physical activity has transported me, where a simple series of downward dogs can leave me feeling light and airy for hours afterwards.  Yeah, yeah, yeah…I know it’s the endorphins…but who cares?  The explanation is irrelevant.  It’s the feeling that matters.

So let’s all get up and touch our toes right now.  Maybe we can do some headstands.  How about a jog around the block?  Come one…you know it’ll make you feel better.

Not feeling it?  Yeah…me neither.

The truth is that for a lot of us, even when we know without a shadow of a doubt that something is not only going to make us feel good, it’s going to make our lives better, we just can’t find the motivation to actually act.  If anything, our energy gets zapped into resisting the action.  We stiffen into an even more immoveable object.  Suddenly we’re all kinks and angles – tight and stubborn, and unlikely to even put one foot in front of the other, or let one word follow the next.

The solution is so straightforward, so obvious, so eye-rolling in its inevitability: we must just “do it.”  Just start somewhere.  We will then become that object in motion.  And once our heart rate’s up and our blood is pumping, we’ll feel silly that we ever fought against movement.

“Writing is a way not only to metabolize life but to alchemize it as well,” declares Cameron.

I did not feel like writing this blog today.  I’m suffering from full blown spring fever and I made the decision (mistake?) to sit out on a sunny patio over my lunch break.  Butterflies twirled, the cat stretched out and yawned happily in the sun.  I picked up an old book – a favorite I revisit every couple of years – and read it while popping ripe strawberries into my mouth.  It was, all in all, a perfect midday interlude.  But it couldn’t last, after 60 minutes I was due back at the office to slog through back issues and a terrifying avalanche of emails.  And on top of all that, I knew I was still on the hook for my daily blog entry.

All I wanted to do was take a nap under tomato vines and a perfectly cloudless April sky.

Glancing through the Right to Write after lunch, I came across this description of a writing life from Cameron: “ I do not put in long hours at the keys – or very seldom.  Instead, I snatch time.  I write in the crannies of my life.”

It hit me with a primal force.  This is exactly the kind of writer’s life I’ve always practiced –the one that works best for me.  On the days when the ideas flow and the content just piles up, it’s because I’ve chosen to write and create in the little pauses between duties and daily responsibilities.  I keep banging this drum of writing whenever and wherever you can because I think it’s not only important, but such a departure from the image ingrained in many of our heads of the lonely writer…quarantined in a dusty, drafty garret…laboriously scratching out one inspired line after the other.

We would all rather envision ourselves as noble carriers of the torch – writing soberly and seriously.  We don’t want to be rabid little chipmunks, rushing and twittering over scraps of ideas, crumbs of plot, the detritus of story.

But let’s face it, we are  – all of us – scavengers.  Next time you think of yourself as a writer, erase the image of a dolled up Shakespeare bust with a frilled collar and a stern expression, and replace it with the rough and tumble wanderer in patched clothes and a vagabond suitcase.  Think of the traveler who repays a waystation’s kindness with a news update and a story or two.  Think of the gypsy delighting curious locals with predictions of a future unimagined.  Think of the court jester, dolled up in motley.

Just stop taking yourself so seriously.

“On the days I get over myself,” says Cameron, “I write freely and happily.  My writer’s life is a loose garment.”

So slip into a life that’s more comfortable, and let your writing take you wherever you want or need to go.

2 thoughts on “Overcoming Your Slacker Tendencies

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