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Hi, loves. 🌿
It all comes back to the process.
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Last week I had one of those no-good, very-bad days. Absolutely nothing major went wrong, which felt like yet another reason why it should not actually be a bad day, why I should not be sinking into any kind of despair. Nothing was truly wrong! Nothing! We are getting by just fine, managing, living a fun and challenging and lovely and frustrating life, like everyone else, and yet, everywhere I looked — last week, but truly every single week, every single day — someone was telling me to lose weight, write more, take a nap! Publish a book, go to a party, buy some pants, cut my hair, fix my marriage, end my marriage, fix my eyebrows, work on my skin, work out more (or at all)! Intermittent fast, cut out gluten, talk it out, walk it out, take another nap, work more, get up earlier, stop drinking caffeine, drink more! Buy this app, buy this subscription, join us! I have the answer!
It’s so noisy out there, on the internet.
Why is there so much advice out there about how to live? And why do I feel compelled to listen to any of it?
It’s almost March, which means we’ve been here more than two months, we are more than a quarter way through this British adventure. Every day I wake up feeling the pressure of time. I am wholly cognisant of the fact that I will not have all these hours to write when life returns to its normal Los Angeles shape and pace in August and I should take up every single one of them with full force, I shouldn’t waste a single one on…a nap, an afternoon spent reading, a long walk, a coffee with a friend, a saunter into town for a book or a pastry. But the truth is that I need all those things, and I need them desperately, to feel like a whole, sane person.
I’m working on a long project, and part of my bad mood last week had to do with the (quite obvious) realization that this will take years. Years! Of course. You can suddenly have so many more hours in your week and have written, oh, 40,000 words and still be nowhere near clear on what it is you’re doing. (I’m an overwriter rather than an underwriter.) It hit me how unrealistic it was to assume that, come July, I’d have a draft of this thing.
Now, I could have pieces of a draft, or I could have a very messy, unformed thing by July, that is true. I could have the shape? A sense of the characters? I could have enough to feel like I have some sort of grip so I don’t lose it all when I have fewer hours to write? But doing a daily word count for me is useless. I wrote something like 40,000 words and grasped that the story was going nowhere (at least I did grasp that?). I was, still, so many words in, at the very, very beginning phases of this process.
When I decided to attempt this new project, one of my biggest fears was that I’d spend ten or so years, on and off, on something that never got published (again). The idea of repeating that slog felt like a supremely depressing endeavour. When I want to soak in the misery of it, I simply click onto Instagram to see all the people with their shiny book sales and cover reveals and book tours — even while I know, I KNOW! that they, too, spent years and years and years in the dark, not really knowing what they were doing. This isn’t new territory; it’s the story of our age. Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides, etc. Applies to lots more than book writing.
And yet, I knew I wanted to try again, because how else did I really want to spend my time? My brainspace? My creative juices? My intelligence? My heart? My one wild and precious — you know, you know.
And perhaps what I (still!) know is that the creation part is the best part. It really is! I mean, I’m sure if I ever sell a book I’ll look back at the moment it happened and find that pretty thrilling, too, no doubt, but of course I know that it is the mornings I am now tucked into my secret corner of the library, absorbed in this new world I’m building, that will, eventually, emerge as the most satisfying. Remember when you figured out that something would happen between those two characters? Or when it turned out the story needed to be told from twenty years on? Is there anything better than witnessing things cohere? And God knows how it all happened?! Magic, really.
This isn’t another piece about the creative process and how we should revere it above all else, or at least above “success.” I will never give up my anti-goals stance, in part because the joy of being inside the art you’re making feels different than ticking off accomplishments. It feels like being underwater, like not needing to bob up to the surface to check on things, you know? It feels like swimming around in the depths and seeing what’s there for us. The minute we swim up and look around and see how far from shore we might be, we are done for — or at least I am, or at least done for the day (see above).
I want, above all else, for these next few months, to stay underwater. To feel and sense and see the shape of things down there, not the rewards on land, which may or may not come. This might mean making some changes to my daily life (not checking Instagram, for instance? Does it all come back to that!?). It might mean not worrying about the rest of the noisy world and its stupid imperatives — lose weight, work out, wax my eyebrows, track my steps. It might mean just trusting the process, pushing a little at the edges (going to the library even when I don’t want to) and relaxing in other ways (knowing a day lost is only that: a day). Perhaps it means weighing things differently: this sounds interesting and also I’m not sure what it might look like or really what it means, but maybe it’s worth a shot?
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