Comfortable Surrender

I wrote yesterday about the challenge the novelist faces aligning with his story each time he sits down to work. This morning I interviewed romance writer Eloisa James who expressed perhaps an opposite perspective, one I have noticed with writers who cut their teeth in advertising or journalism where the work is done against unforgiving deadlines—namely, there’s no time to get stuck. I appreciate this position. I had a roommate in college who never started a paper until the night before it was due. With great drama he would brew an enormous pot of coffee and announce it was time for an “all nighter.” I don’t think he would have known what to do with all the extra time afforded him if he had worked on it for, say, a week instead a night. Very likely, he would have torn up everything he wrote in the first six days and then wrote the entire thing on the night of the seventh.

Which is to say, we all find a way of working that suits us best. Some people like to ruminate on stories, some do not. Those that do not like to ruminate seem to find themselves with deadlines they simply cannot break. Those that do like to ruminate manage to wiggle out of deadlines. Either way, your job is to find out how you work and honor it.

This is not always so simple. The mirage of the greener grass across the fence is born of the truth that anything can work. Our mind rejects this formula. Our mind requires one solution to a problem. And yet the truth is broader and more forgiving. The truth is we have nowhere to rest but within our own comfort, a bed with no defined edge that we must search for blind in the darkened room of our work.

I must remind myself every day to seek nothing else but that, my own comfort. So easy to forget with deadlines and a life that appears to need managing. I forget, and wind myself tight, frustrated with the unwieldy and uncooperative octopus that is life. And so I give up, and I surrender, and in the peace that always follows I feel comfortable again, and then I get to work.

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