Made For Doing
After much practice, I have learned to enjoy the waiting necessary to write anything. You can’t always be in the middle of writing a sentence, and you can’t always be finding your way into the next sentence you know you want to write. Sometimes you finish a sentence and have no idea what’s coming next. You try a few quick ideas, but they’re the wrong direction, and so you sit back, fingers off the keyboard, and wait.
For many years, when I was not in my very best frame of mind, I’d begin to panic if this waiting went on for too long. Writing was about movement, about entering that rapidly flowing stream of a story and riding it as far and as fast as I could. But this stillness, this drifting, felt too much like the nothingness I so often feared in the fallow moments of my uncreative days. It was as if the very meaning or meaninglessness of my life were in constant competition, and only movement could reassure me I was headed somewhere I wanted to go. Stillness felt like defeat, like the end of pleasure, the end of fun.
The problem, I came to learn, was a matter of attention. If I want something, but look for it where it isn’t, I may believe I have nothing. As soon as I panic, I stop looking and commence mourning the unfairness and meagerness of life. I’ve forgotten that stories are felt experiences of life. I can lose track of that feeling if I follow a stray thought too far from the story’s home. Before I can know what to write next I have to return home and rest for a bit in that feeling and remember why I was so interested in it in the first place.
If it’s a story I want to tell, it feels nice just to be with it again, even if I’m not actively telling it. After all, the stories I like to tell are just ways of saying, “Look at life this way. Isn’t that better?” Sometimes I return to story’s home and find myself happy to stare out the window. Life really is better seen this way, I think to myself. It’s nice to just sit with the story without knowing where it’s going, and feel its meaning just the same. It’s nice to remember that I am not a thing made whole by what I’ve done, but a whole thing that was made for doing.