Finally, finally, today I ended my writer’s block. I spent time on the new novel, re-reading, adding to it, and creating transitions for the next part of the story. How did I do it? In a not-very-dramatic fashion, I scheduled it and then sat down to write. That’s it. No magic. No visit from the Muse. No big “Ah ha!” in the night. Ask most writers, and they will tell you that the secret to writing is putting the butt in the chair. They’re right.
Still, there are things we can do to stoke the fire, to bring about a personal renaissance when one is needed. For me, that means going back to the basics. Each morning, before I get up, I write three pages longhand…a trick from Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way. For some time now, I have been lazy about the pages, doing them haphazardly, sometimes stopping in the middle. For the past few weeks I have made myself do them, sometimes kicking and screaming, for one simple reason: they work. I feel better.
In our Morning Pages, we are advised to put down whatever we are thinking or feeling, regardless of how petty or bitchy it is.Not coincidentally, my pages today raised bitchy to a new level. I unloaded my frustration so I would free myself from it…no beating around the bush, no denying that I was pissed off, no pretending I was happy when I wasn’t. What a relief! And better to put it on the page than to yell at my hubby.
For the past few weeks I have also focused on regenerating my yoga practice. While I do yoga consistently, my practice has felt stale for some time. I thought a visit to Kripalu in western Massachusetts would help me refocus, but it didn’t. My practice for the last several months has been about showing up, doing my best, and knowing that stale periods with yoga, like stale periods with writing, eventually pass if we just keep at it. My dry spell went on for so long that I was starting to waiver–would I ever find my love for yoga again? Yet somehow, my practice has started to reflower, just as some of my plants, ravaged by feeding caterpillars, are sprouting new leaves and blooms.
As I have spent more time in the garden than with the page for quite a while, I wonder if this quiet, non-productive time is not only appropriate, but necessary for me as a writer. Of course, most writers will say that regular writing creates a habit and helps to relieve the drama of writer’s block. Yet somehow, as I tend my plants, I am learning a new way of relating to life. I am more connected to nature’s cycles, including her resilience against freezes, storms, pests, and my inadvertent mistakes as a novice gardener. I am learning that sometimes my best course of action is to do nothing–to wait. I am learning to be a better listener, and I think there are many stories in the garden waiting for me to hear them.
I have waited, discontented, lost, sad, missing my art, but waiting with the beginnings of a trust I have never had. I thought I had learned about faith years ago when I was stripped of all that I had or longed for: family, finances, and health. Yet this faith, the faith I am learning now, feels different. As I study the unique rhythms of nature and the balance of the little ecosystem I am creating, I am finding my own rhythms. Just as I learn each step in the garden when a new experience presents itself, I am learning how to provide my own inner ecosystem what it needs. Once upon a time I had to learn to choose life. Now I am learning to dance with it, and to appreciate even the times of desert, knowing that soon leaves and blooms will appear.
The first day of revisiting my novel, and words emerged like my tiny tomatillo seeds. Is it a coincidence that I spread compost on my plants today, giving them new food? I have spread compost to my spirit, and now the writing garden seems eager to emerge yet again.