I’ve been dealing with some writing “stuckness” in the past month or so. And I’ve been aware that it’s had to do with both inner and outer obstacles. The writing was just not happening.
- The first thing I needed to deal with was my space. I alternate between writing in my home office, and my shared office space at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. But recently I realized I was fleeing to the Grotto more often than not, because my own space was just such a damn mess. These photos don’t even begin to show the half of the mountains of paper and boxes all over the floor. I could barely get from one end of the room to the other. Well, I hired a TaskRabbit to help me out last week. I just needed someone to sit next to me, to cheer me on, and to not let me get bogged down in reading every single sheet of paper. She just held up the basket and said, helpfully, “Recycle, right? Right!” In the end, I filled up more than half of the giant bin out on my driveway. That’s about 10 grocery bags worth of unnecessary paper. It made an immediate difference. Suddenly, I wanted to sit in my cozy chair to read. I wanted to sit at my desk and write. For the first time in many months, I wanted to hang out in this pretty space I have in my own home.
- I also just picked up this book that I’d been hearing a lot about: “the life-changing magic of tidying up.” I could honestly build a CABIN out of all the decluttering/organizing books I’ve purchased over the years (with varying results), so I had to laugh at myself for getting yet one more. But the voice in this book is so very Japanese – it’s kind of strict, kind of charming and very compelling, in a very new way. It’s all about letting go of stuff. And her approach is unique – she doesn’t advocate going room-by-room, or doing a “little at a time,” which many books encourage, as a way of not freaking people out. Well, this author is apparently not afraid of freaking people out. I’m a little freaked out. But intrigued by her approach, which is to go by category. Ie., clothes, books, kitchen equipment. Her way is to lay ALL the stuff out at once. Like, ALL of it. Every. Single. Piece. Of Clothing. Or book, or whatever. And then have a massive laying on of hands. Of deciding if this object truly is worthy of keeping. She has guidelines for deciding yes or no. And the rest of it – the majority of it – out it goes. GONE. Yeah, it freaked me out. But it also made me think: this is probably what I need.
- After I dealt with the outer environment, I had to deal with the inner environment. I took a trip to see my therapist, whom I hadn’t visited in years. But she knows me well, she knows the pits that I can fall into, especially regarding my writing. She calmed me down and reminded me of some things. She reminded me that I’ve often settled for “crumbs” in certain relationships (relationships that appear to be in direct opposition to my writing life) and that the price of those crumbs is diminishing my voice. I left there thinking about crumbs. And the need for a
- I also had to deal with my body, which has been similarly cluttered. As I wrestled with writing issues, I often used food as a form of comfort. This didn’t really lead to long-term comfort, of course, but actually a kind of numbed out despair. So on February 1st, I embarked on a 30-day Whole30 plan. I decided to eliminate alcohol, sugar, grains, legumes and dairy products, just to see what would happen. It’s been 3 weeks now, and I’m feeling a heck of a lot better. And it’s a lot easier than I had ever imagined. I’m never really hungry in ways that I used to be, I’m not craving any of those things, and I’m just feeling overall cleaner. I haven’t quite decided what I’m going to do when the 30 days are up, but I do know that these changes have had a positive impact on my inner physical state, and no doubt for the writing as well.
- Final step involved clearing out my schedule, which is typically packed-to-the-gills busy with events, activities, social things, readings, classes, etc. I made time for a morning of silent walking followed by silent writing. I was nervous. After all of this clearing, would the words really come? Yesterday morning I joined up with five other silent walker-writers. We walked through the beauty of a redwood forest. I found a meadow with beautiful views. The fresh green was brilliant.
After all of this – the office cleaning, the therapy, the fresh food and the walking – finally, there were no more obstacles in the way. I sat down after the hour walk, took out my notebook, and the words came. Relief.