This is what happened: Each winter I try to devote myself entirely to Writing for at least two months. It’s a time when I can either throw my heart into a new project that I can spend the rest of the year elaborating on, or it’s when I can close up a project that is “almost” there and just needs that last attention to polishing and shining.
This winter’s endeavor was to complete my novel The Happiness Cure. I’d been so busy last year with my two non-fiction projects, and as some of you know, so stuck on basic complicated plot threads of The Happiness Cure, that I hardly had confidence that it would ever happen. Still, I was committed to trying my best. When March came I knew I’d be back in the throes of teaching, and I had several editing jobs that were headed my way in early spring as well. Then there was a visit to LA scheduled, and then summer…
So I pulled out the manuscript that first week of January and went to work. Almost immediately, my eyes got blurry and my chest felt tight and I was worried about getting depressed.
Hurriedly, I put the book away, and concentrated the next six weeks on something entirely different: doing nothing.
That’s not strictly true but it’s close: I spent most of my days meditating. All kinds of meditation: dance, tarot, yoga, walking, and sometimes just breathing. I hardly left my room except for a few hours in the evenings.
Last week I realized I only had four days left before I was scheduled to teach a seminar to juniors and seniors, and something strange kicked in. I pulled out The Happiness Cure and began to read it. As I read it, every last little bit of the puzzle fell into place like magic, like the pieces fall into place in a jigsaw just when you think there must be a few pieces missing.
I wrote and wrote, all day and late into the night, for four days straight. This afternoon it was done and I sent it to my editors for proofreading.
Two things I’m reminded of in looking back on what happened:
The first is that there really is no such thing as writer’s block. It is all writing, as I’ve said before in other posts. Even if you are simply taking a walk, or breathing, or “doing nothing,” something is percolating in you that is as much a part of the process of writing as is putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.
The second is: Never undervalue the importance of doing nothing. Even if you can’t spend a winter at it, find an hour or even a few minutes for this activity. No chitchat, no entertainment, no thinking about what you ‘should’ be doing. Just lie on a couch and purposefully let emptiness come.
Blessings on your writing journey!