I’m not writing. Well, clearly I am writing- but I’m not doing the writing I want to do. I’m not writing the novel I want to write, the novel that may or may not be half written (depending on whether or not the pile of pages I set down two years ago is still the story that wants to be told.) I’m feeling well physically, my year-end financial books are done, the filing cabinets have been cleaned out, and the website’s been revamped. I’ve had my dental check up and teeth cleaning, my bills have been paid and the oil in my car has been change.
And still, I am not doing the writing I want to do. I write my dreams, I write the blogs, I write in my journal and I post on FB. I answer emails, send out correspondence, write lists and post-it note reminders. But I am not writing fiction. So, what’s the problem?
I’m not sure, but when I’m not worried about it, I am curious. Procrastination has rarely been my problem. More often, when in doubt I take action, and only in hindsight can I see that at least some of the time it might have been wise to pause, to wait, to take my time before acting. This isn’t procrastination, a putting off of something unpleasant, or a pause. It’s resistance to something I want to do. It’s a feeling of inner conflict, of having one foot on the brake and one on the gas. Of course, that can’t go on forever without burning out either the engine or the brakes or both.
This of course is not an uncommon problem. A talented artist I know tells me every time I see him how he must get back to his painting, but clearly he is finding it hard to do so. A friend who can do what seems impossible to me (compose music) finds it hard to get her work into a form she can share with the world- something she knows is important to her if her music is going to develop.
Sometimes we don’t act because the timing is off, we lack the necessary energy or clarity. But sometimes, we just need to acknowledge the resistance and keep walking into the thing that calls our name. Resistance is the ego sensing danger. Engaging in creative work involves taking new risks, entering uncharted territory that mayl change us in unpredictable ways. Change threatens our carefully crafted identity and strategies for preserving the ego’s illusion of control. So, with an inner ear unavoidably hearing the anxiety (“what if it’s awful, what if you fail, why not stick to what you know, what about paying the bills. . . . ?) I put one foot, or in this case one finger, in front of the other and begin:
She blinked and turned away from the computer screen, suddenly drawn to the cloudless blue sky visible through the high windows. For a moment she sat still, and something inside her shifted. Without really knowing it, she had crossed a line.
There was no hesitation in her movement, nor was there any hurry. Even before she had moved forward it was already too late to turn back. She opened the bottom right hand drawer of her desk and took out her brown leather purse. She pushed back her chair and stood up, turning away from her desk. Later, no one could remember seeing her leave. It was all done so quietly, which in itself was unusual. She was not known for being particularly quiet. Anyone who may have looked up from their work station as she passed would have thought she was simply on her way to the restroom. If they’d noticed the absence of her usual greeting or offhand remark they would have simply assumed that she was, as they were, in the midst of a busy work day, preoccupied with impending deadlines. They could not have guessed that she was moving away from deadlines, leaving them dangling with a breath-taking and uncharacteristic lack of concern for consequences or explanations.
Later, when her co-workers passed her desk on their way home, they assumed she was elsewhere in the building. Her computer was on, the screen saver hurtling stars from infinite space toward the viewer. A pad of paper on the desk was covered with a list of tasks to be finished by the end of the day. The pen that had been used to write the list, an elegant old-fashioned fountain pen- a gift from a friend the previous Christmas- lay uncapped across the words written in indigo ink. Her sweater, a practical acrylic-wool blend in dark grey, kept on hand to ward off the chill when the building’s air conditioning got over-enthused, hung on the back of her chair. A half cup of cold earl grey tea in a pale blue china cup sat next to her phone.
And it was all there the next morning- the pen, the pad, the cup of tea, and the sweater on the chair. When one of her co-workers clicked the mouse resting next to her keyboard, hoping for clues as to where she was, the movement through star-studded space gave way to a flashing cursor waiting in the middle of an unfinished word. What had, the night before, held the sense of an expected return now looked abandoned. It made others uneasy even as they asked each other, trying to sound casually curious, if anyone knew where she was.
Oriah House (c) 2009
Oriah is the author of the international best-selling books: The Invitation, and The Dance, and The Call (published by HarperONE, translated into eighteen languages.) Her much loved poem “The Invitation” has been shared around the world. Trained in a shamanic tradition, her medicine name Mountain Dreamer means one who likes to find and push the edge. Using story, poetry and shamanic ceremony Oriah’s deeply personal writing and her work as a group facilitator and mentor explore how to follow the thread of our heart’s longing into a life where we can choose joy without denying the challenges of a human life. www.oriah.org www.oriahsinvitation.blogspot.com https://www.facebook.com/Oriah.Mountain.Dreamer?sk=wall
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