I am in a major creative rut. Every time I sit in front of a screen with the intention of writing, the same sequence of events takes place. I open my laptop. I see 29 layers of unfinished musings on my desktop and am immediately stumped. Then I open the various notes where I keep writing ideas and my brain stages a rebellion.
“No way in hell I’m writing any of that crap,” says Muse. Door slams. Silence.
So I go to my default. I plan children’s activities. I plan menus. I make to do lists that include planning children’s activities and menus. Maybe I start the laundry, do the dishes, figure out what’s for dinner because, despite all the posturing, I actually suck at menu planning.
There’s always a new project I can use as an excuse for not putting words on a page. The newest one is Christmas. Christmas, you beautiful cornucopia of manufactured obligations. Photo books, family advent calendars, parties, gingerbread houses! And amidst it all I have someone suggesting I put my kid on a restricted diet. So now there’s research to do, cookbooks to read and oh so much planning.
You know what I mean. All that mental load stuff we’ve been talking about for the last few months. It is never ending but it’s almost like one of those exploding snake fireworks, the one where the black ash keeps frothing out of a tiny capsule. I can keep producing items for my list but if I really want it to stop, I just have to put my foot down.
And here’s where I usually hit a wall. I’ve written a few paragraphs, come to a decent point and am now left with no clue as to where to take this thing. So I send a text. Check email. Make a coffee. Try not to eat chocolate.
This happens to me a lot. I was in a good groove back in the spring, posting twice a week. I have no idea how I made that happen. Judah was only at the day home once a week and I used all his preschool time to workout so I’m not sure when I wrote. More importantly, I’m not sure how I wrote. These days, idea of writing anything at all sends my muse into the fetal position. The thought of writing two things a week, well that’s just crazy talk.
I have figured out one important factor, though. If I ever get back into a groove like that again, I can never take a break. Ever. It’s the same as working out. You miss one day, it’s fine. You miss a week and you think, screw it where’s the remote and that bag of Cool Ranch Doritos? (I just googled to make sure they still make those.)
I fell off both bandwagons as soon as summer rolled around. I missed a self-imposed post deadline. Then the next. Then I let the workouts slide. Next thing I know it’s September, I’m back at the gym and my legs are wondering what the heck I’m trying to prove. Meanwhile my muse is still sitting in the corner pretending there’s something uber important happening on Instagram.
It reminds me of a quote I heard last spring when I started to put some effort into my fitness regime. That is to say, around the time when I decided to actually go to a gym and not assume driving children all over place counted as “moderate activity.” I was doing an online workout and the instructor said, “If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up.”
That one hit me like an eight pound hand weight. I was used to hearing her spout out the cheesiest of cheesie motivational quotes, ones that would be written in violet cursive overtop a floral background in your Instagram feed.
You get what you give.
This is your time.
Find the real you.
Life is a box of chocolates so don’t eat all the good ones first.
OK, maybe not that last one. The point is I wasn’t expecting to feel compelled to write down anything she said let alone put it on a post-it on the bathroom mirror. Even Luke thought it was good, and he’s not one for violet cursive talk.
Whether it’s working out, eating more consciously, challenging yourself not to yell at your kids or honouring your creative passions, one of the hardest things to do is stay on course. Like Sisyphus pushing his rock up the hill, each step can seem impossibly hard, but at least we know our rocks can actually reach the top. We aren’t destined to continually start all over again. We have a choice.
I should know. I’ve walked back down that hill a thousand times, only to find my desire to write staring me right in the face when I get to the bottom. Clearly, I need a plan. Because as I stand here dusting my hands, I am certain of one real truth: I don’t want to spend the rest of my life at the bottom of this hill with this bloody rock standing in my way.