Today in my Nature Writers camp at the Idaho Botanical Gardens, part of The Cabin's wonderful Idaho Writing Camps programs, we read this piece and talked about the importance of love in what we're doing, and how if we follow what we love, it will take us where we want to go.
FROM A LETTER TO HIS SON ALBERT
I am very pleased that you find joy with the piano. This and carpentry are in my opinion for your age the best pursuits, better even than school. Because those are things which fit a young person such as you very well. Mainly play the things on the piano which please you, even if the teacher does not assign those. That is the way to learn the most, that when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes. I am sometimes so wrapped up in my work that I forget about the noon meal…
Recently, I've been remember how to love writing. Over the last year, or at least the last six months, I've had to trick myself to keep writing. In many moments, writing was no longer the sanctuary, the relief place I've known it to be most my life, especially since 2009 when I started writing everyday as a survival tactic. This year, often times it became the thing I had to do. I've never wanted that relationship with writing, but the necessity of getting things done with several projects, including my Final MFA Project and finishing up school, turned my beloved practice into a teeth-pulling commitment. Not every day. But enough to notice.
Over the last month, I gave myself a more laid back approach to writing practice. I still wrote every day, but I didn't push myself to go deeply if I didn't want to. I knew I was tired enough that if I tried to force any more out of me, it could damage my relationship with my daily arts practice. I'm glad I listened to that knowing.
With the small projects I'd undertaken -- an essay, a five minute poem, a short play, a memoir piece -- I focused on what was fun for me to write right then. I took risks, but when I met up with resistance, I didn't bottle up my feelings and battle down the page. I took a break. I worked on something else. I returned to my notebook later. I knew it would still be there. I knew that if I returned to the pen when I wanted it, that more goodness would come from that joyful easing out of words, rather than trying to crank them out my worn and rusted brain.
That holding back has helped. I'm remembering why I love to write, why I need it. My creative energy is returning, along with my hunger to pull out new stories, verses and ideas. There's a lot I can learn from this approach in general, without waiting for burnout first. This kind approach. I can let sentences open up in a loving way. I can go easy.
There are times to go hard into the work, but if I'm doing that all the time, I can pull up more drudgery than inspiration. I want to be in this practice, in this way of writing, in this profession for the long haul. Life is hard enough. I don't need to make the writing and art that I love any harder than it is. That can be the joy. Yes of course it's work too, but it's the kind I can do "with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes." I can cultivate pages with a romancing energy.
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Process notes on a work in progress (me). This mostly contains raw rough content pulled out of practice notebooks. Occasional posts also invite you into the way I work, with intermittent notes on the hows and whys on the whats I make. Less often you may also find prompts and processes I've brought to workshops, as well as surveys that help me gather material for projects. Similar earlier posts from years ago can be found on: