When not writing is writing and how to tell

by | Nov 7, 2007

From a conversation in Shaboom County about the creative life. The first part is reprinted by permission from the person who posted it and asked to remain anonymous.

This fall I’ve sometimes not worked until 6PM or later–spending the day doing quotidian things like grocery shopping, gym, or even sitting around drinking coffee watching the light move across the room, feeling helpless to even open a book.
Needless to say it gets kind of scary, especially when you don’t talk to anyone or see friends or are away from your spouse, as I have been.
But, it becomes so clear the process of allowing isn’t always comfortable! One time I was teaching a drawing class. There was a young student who put down a line, and when I came past, she said urgently, “Don’t look! It’s no good!” No stranger to self-doubt, I was nonetheless amazed: IT IS ONE LINE! I exclaimed. HOW COULD IT BE NO GOOD? YOU HAVEN’T EVEN STARTED YET!
When Picasso’s ex-mistress Francois Gilot wrote her tell-all book in the 1960s she spoke of how Picasso spent hours looking and just minutes, sometimes, drawing.
It’s complex, who knows what’s going on inside as light travels from one wall to another.

And my response:

Thanks guys. I popped in here during a break from writing, feeling guilty for stopping. I have spent more time not writing than writing lately, and thankfully I have pretty much stopped beating myself up when I don’t write. In fact, Monday and Tuesday I was very aware of The Book, deeply engaged with writing, and not writing at all.
Today I dove in and started work. It went okay, though I am more and more aware that this book has stopped being a how-to (if it ever was) and is growing into something much more complex. That means I have to really work to get to – as they say – “the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”
And that’s what takes all the looking, I think. The waiting. The reading silly books or not reading at all.
I am learning the difference between running from the process in howling fear and self-abasement (food, sleep, nonsense) and allowing the process to unfold, which might look like any number of things including the above, by the way – but from a perspective of engagement and enjoyment rather than escape.
I think this is the Great Edge we are on: are we willing to show up for the present pleasures, the mysteries, the not knowings, even the amazing sensations of fear and doubt? Will we be here, now, or will we keep trying to dictate a future that doesn’t exist and never will?

This post appears above in its entirety.