A kind, generous and wise friend told me yesterday that it was ok, if I was tired or struggling with writing and publishing every day, to take a break, have a pause, or even stop if I wanted to. He gave me permission. He knows his stuff, this friend – really knows his stuff – and I respect him. I know he was right when he told me it might be stronger in some ways to pause rather than to slavishly plough on out of some kind of obligation. And wiser, too, because often good creative work happens deep inside, like seeds fizzing with potential under the ground. Things are happening – unseen, perhaps unsuspected – while we’re doing other things and not necessarily when we’re sitting staring at a blank page or disconsolately shifting words around because we feel we should be ‘working’. A creative brain, he said, needs to re-assess itself and it needs time and space to do that. I could have a break and come back to it once I’d given myself chance to miss it and fall in love with it again.
But stopping the blog? Yikes! What would that feel like? Like immense relief, for a couple of weeks, I suspect. I’d feel like I had so much time on my hands! I could learn to do the tango! Or at least just rest for a bit. But then I think I’d feel like a bit of a weasel. I promised to do this every day to raise money for Shelter and I want to make good on that promise. If for that reason alone, I’m not going to stop. I promised myself, too, that I was going to develop a daily writing practice – that I was finally going to get out of my own way, as they say – and that’s another good reason. But how can I make sure it’s a valuable exercise, for me and for anyone who happens to be reading? How can I stay, to use my friend’s words, engaged and honest with the whole thing?
I’m going to take my friend’s advice on board by looking at how I can make space for my creativity to expand rather than shrivel whilst keeping good on my promise to post every day. (I’m also going to enjoy a very mini pause by making this long post my contribution for the 3-day weekend). I’m going to look at how I can get some of that initial joy back. I can’t know, exactly, what will be valuable for my readers, but if there’s joy and passion and fun in the writing – and a genuine desire to connect – well, that’s my bit.
I’m going to try a few things out. I’m going to try writing several short ‘light’ pieces over a weekend for the next week, so I can take time to write more considered pieces without the pressure to press ‘publish’ before the ink has dried. Or just so that I can have a couple of days without writing, so my creative well has chance to refill without me trying to plunder it every day. I’m going to try out some writing exercises and some different types of writing so I don’t start to feel stale and I’m going to reveal more about the process – what I’m learning, what I’m struggling with, what I’m trying to do – and I’m going to press pause on any undue pressure I’ve been putting on myself.
One of my aims here has been to improve my writing. You have to try things out to do this and you have to fail sometimes. You have to be prepared to write things that don’t work at all because it’s all part of a journey – you hope – towards writing something that really sings. So I’m giving myself permission to do that and not to feel bad about it.
I wrote a while back in I made this for you: reflections on writing about how I didn’t know what the blog was going to be when I started it, but how it was now shaping up to be an interesting exercise in life-writing, where I was unfolding the story of myself – specifically the story of how I came through a difficult time and everything I learned – day by day. I might be right, and I believe I have something valuable to share about that, but I don’t think I’ll really know the shape or meaning of this project until the end and I think it was a mistake, and premature, to try to define it in that way. I’ve turned into one of those needy lovers who, after just a few dates, starts wanting to know where this is going… And that was never the point of the exercise. Remember where I started?
‘Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’
So ‘onwards!’ as my friend said in the end when I told him I was going to find a way to both pause and keep going. Onwards and upwards.