This has been the busiest summer I’ve had in a long while, and not in the fun, vacationing, reading, hitting-the-beach-and-hiking-with-my-daughter kind of way, but in the racing-to-meet-crazy-deadlines, working-seven-days-a-week, at-my-desk-’til-midnight kind of way that puts me in very real danger of total burn out. Despite moments of bitterness (Why does everyone else seem to be going on vacation, while I can’t??) and regret (My daughter will never be twelve again.), I am ultimately grateful to be as busy as I am. Being able to pay the bills is a Good Thing, and, as I’ve said before, this too shall pass.
Perhaps because of the complete insanity of my schedule and the breakneck speed of my days, any pocket of time that allows me to slow down even a little bit feels like an oasis. I had such a moment the other day when my daughter’s extended stay at the beach with friends left me to cover a dog walk for her. At first I was frustrated by the interruption (after all, it is her dog walking business), but I soon found myself thankful for the excuse to get away from my desk for a while. Even more important was the chance the walk gave me to exist in the moment, to just “be” as my canine companion and I walked down a wooded path that runs through town along the banks of the river.
It was late afternoon and still hot, but a rogue breeze wandered up and down the path, keeping the air just this side of oppressive. Unseen cicadas hummed their shrill tune from high up in the canopy of faded, drought-bedraggled leaves. A few ducks and gulls milled about, making slow circles on the surface of the river, and the sunlight that filtered down to the dusty path threw a greenish-golden cast over everything.
Daisy, my furry companion, snuffled about contentedly in the low undergrowth that lines the path, leaving me to my own thoughts. I walked slowly and felt, quite literally, like I was catching my breath. I closed my eyes and let my consciousness sink into the physical sensations of the moment – the hard ground beneath my feet, the gentle tug on the end of the leash, the warm air buffeting my face, the prickle of heat on the back of my neck. I inhaled and let the scent of late summer rush me back in time through an incoherent patchwork of summers gone by and other moments when I had paused to let a moment crystalize around me, captured in the web of my memory like an insect in amber. I heard, as though from a long way off, a layered symphony of sounds – the squabbling and chatter of the waterfowl, the muted whoosh of cars, a crow calling from the top of a soaring pine across the river, children’s voices from someone’s back yard, a siren somewhere towards town, and the cicadas.
All of this rushed into my mind in a moment, giving me the sensation of being pulled forcefully back into the world after a long period of sensory deprivation at my desk. I felt my shoulders drop and my chest relax slightly. I took another deep breath. This, I thought, is what people mean when they talk about “existing in the moment” – this grounded, open, undistracted way of being.
And then I realized how important it is to cultivate a similar feeling when we write. How we need to stay with the page, with the words, with each word. How we have to keep our minds from running away with our thoughts. Whether they are trying to drag us backwards to pace in agitation over the tired path of old regrets, or whether they are rushing ahead of us to worry about the unknown future, our minds must be brought back to a point of stillness in the present moment. While looking back in time or imagining the future may provide us some inspiration, when we are actually at work, we have to stay in the moment with the story. We cannot, for instance, let ourselves get distracted by thoughts of missed opportunities or work ourselves into a frenzy of self doubt by wondering how our work will be received. I can’t tell you how many times my train of thought has been derailed by involuntary musings about how much a client is going to hate the piece I’m working on. (Reality check – they never hate anything I deliver.)
No. We can’t let our minds take advantage of us like that. Be in the moment. Stay with the story. Use the words to anchor you to what you’re writing. Like my feet planted on the path by the river, keep your attention rooted and focused – allowing you to tune in and stay with your words. It’s not easy, but when you find that space, you will gain clarity and flow in your writing. You will be able to let the rest of the world slip away so that you can focus on building a new one with your words. And then, in a kind of circle of magic, you will be able to invite others into that new world, sharing your story to help them focus their thoughts and maybe find their feet planted more solidly underneath them because of your story.
My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:
PUBLISHING & MARKETING
- A Simple Tip to Feel More Empowered in the Business of Writing by @JaneFriedman
- My Pop-Up Strategy, Part 2: The Autoresponder Series by @JaneFriedman
- Authors: Here’s All You Need to Grow Your Email List by @EmilyWenstrom
- Why it’s a very good sign that people don’t read your content by @markwschaefer
- Good question alert: Can you be a “serious writer” while also just being yourself? by @NataliaAntonova
- Permission to Begin. Courage to Continue. Forgiveness to Try Again. by @DanBlank
THE WRITING LIFE
- Learning to Care (About Writing and Dogs) by @little_jaycup
- Best Demonstrated Practices: Seasoned Writers Share Their Strategies for Success by @jenniferlawson
- What’s the best word in the English Dictionary? via @Raconteur
- Writing in Busy Times by @elizabethscraig
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Sundry Links and Whatnot:
I came across this delight via Messy Nessy, a Cabinet of Chic Curiosities. Obviously, as a reader and writer, I’ve always loved books and libraries. But, I have also always loved miniatures. Though I never had a proper dollhouse, I turned my childhood bookcases into a house (and stables) for a doll. And I still have a collection of Tiny Things, which I display in an antique letterpress drawer that hangs on my living room wall. So, it was not surprising that I would swoon a little at the sight of this beautifully detailed miniature library.
Perhaps even more delightful, was the discovery that the creator of this fetching library space, Lady Delaney, has not only a beautiful website to explore, but also an Etsy shop where you can purchase all kinds of miniature books as well as a kit to make your own collection of miniature books. Sounds like a lovely fall/winter project to me!
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Finally, a quote for the week:
Here’s to finding moments of peace in the chaos, staying with your story, and finding your feet beneath you.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.