Headspace Please

I struggle to write. I know I’m not the only one. Writers, famous and not, have spoken of writers block and dry spells. 

As a former journalist, I don’t really believe in writers block. If a writer doesn’t know what to say, it is because they’ve lost the flow or need to feed their creativity. Journalists who write thousands of words day in, day out, with both assignments and deadlines don’t get writers block. If they did, they’d get fired. Creative writing generally doesn’t have such intensity, which allows for dry spells.

Even when I don’t have the headspace to write, I must spend time in nature. Beauty soothes my soul. I look, and see beauty, even in the midst of trouble.

I’ve gone years without writing except for in my journal.

I can go weeks and months not writing in my journal too. A lot of it depends on if I want to write.

Sometimes I don’t want to write.

It takes a lot of discipline and maybe not many children underfoot (though I know that’s an excuse too) to both write and live a life. Sometimes a writer writes. Other times, a writer observes and even participates in life. What a concept. Those who are the best at both don’t make headlines.

I was escaping the house for a bit of hot fresh air to find this fellow in my chair. Even when my creativity is in the pits, I’m constantly looking and taking photos.
Sometimes just playing with the camera setting exercises my creativity. Seeing the details on such a small critter inspires me.

The writers, the artists, who make headlines are not the ones to emulate. Their lives aren’t sustainable.

I realized in the last month, while I wasn’t writing except in my journal, that I need a certain amount of headspace to write.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, yes, Charles Lindbergh’s wife, helped me. On page 51 of her book Gift From the Sea, which was published in 1955, she said wrote, which seemed partially in response to Virginia Woolf’s book A Room of One’s Own, “The problem is not entirely in finding the room of one’s own, the time alone, difficult and necessary as this is. The problem is more how to still the soul in the midst of activities. In fact, the problem is how to feed the soul.”

That describes my on-and-off writing lifestyle. I couldn’t write when my eldest children were babies. I wrote quite a lot, even started two novels, before the first was born. Then a long, long dry spell. I picked up my pen again when the youngest was about 4 and the two of them played together well for long periods of time. I stopped again when I started working part-time while homeschooling them. I finally found a way to do both by freelancing for the local newspaper. 

Even though I was allowed a lot of freedom to cover stories, mainly features, that interested me, writing for the newspaper didn’t feed my soul, and really doesn’t pay that well.

After my third baby was born, I went back to work again, but stayed away from the newspaper for a job that required only Saturdays and Sundays. I wanted to focus my time with my kids on my kids. I was exhausted. I stopped writing, even in my journal for years, except for the rare freelance piece.

Looking at the sky, watching clouds, and making up stories for their shapes, helps ground me. A grand expanse of blue creates headspace in wonderful ways.

There wasn’t space in my head. Or in my heart.

Except for a quick foray into National Novel Writing month in 2014, when I wrote a novel in three months.

I started writing in earnest two years ago. It took 16 months, but I finished my second novel at Christmas. I jumped right into writing my second one. 

Then COVID-19  hit. 

Uncertainty and anxiety didn’t help. My writing sputtered in March, April, and May. It’s easy to say it was a trauma response, and maybe it was, but I think it more likely had to do with my kids’ college classes coming home and us having to learn to navigate living together at home ALL THE TIME.

My words fled. 

They quietly returned in mid-May. They respectfully stayed home until early July. 

They ran away again.

Those naughty words.

It’s the end of July, and they’ve come home to roost again.

What is going on?

My middle son, who is 15-years-old, is taking a five-week dual credit college class.

Intellectually, he’s got it. Physically, developmentally, he’s a 15-year-old boy. So while I don’t have to help him with class, I do have to help him plan and manage his time. Sometimes he needs me to sit beside him and re-direct his focus. 

As a homeschool mom, I also help him with a lot of his questions by pointing him to the document the instructor created that answers them. I gently nag.

Even as I write this, I’m a little disturbed by how much hand-holding I do, but as a homeschool mom, I know that I am the only support he has, whereas when I was the same age, I had seven different teachers, two guidance counselors, and a band of classmates that met at 6:30 or 7 a.m. every morning to do schoolwork together. I was no where near as isolated as he is.

It takes headspace.

Too much for me to write.

As you can see, something shifted, and I have headspace right now.

Interestingly, two weeks ago, I didn’t have headspace to even do my artwork. 

Even with COVID-19, I regularly meet with a friend or two in a park (we social distance and we limit our bubble). I always take my pastels with me. I love doing messy artwork outside. 

It feeds my soul.

I couldn’t do that even, for three long weeks.

Instead I started a knitting project. I’m about a quarter through.

This pastel started as a fun way to play with colors I like, but I liked it so much that I signed it and sprayed fixative. Now to figure out what to do with my finished artwork.

It doesn’t take creativity to follow a simple pattern. It doesn’t take much focus either.

Except when it does. Then I have to pull out stitches and re-do some of my work.

I was able to finish two paintings this week that I started in May. I looked at one I started in early June. I can’t wrap my head around that one. 

Maybe I’ll come back to it later. Maybe I’ll throw it away.

Some art, and writing is like that. 

Some of it is for others to see, read, savor, question. Some of it is not. Writing is usually a solitary activity. My artwork is usually a social activity. I do both for me, but some of both are for public consumption.

When I have headspace.

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