Vacation began and ended in July, yet still I'm devoid of any creativity. I've been back at my desk for weeks, filling my days with the business of selling books and scripts, setting up appearances, updating my websites, trolling the Internet for pirated free downloads of my works. It's all necessary, but it's all so blah. When I hear people tell me they want to be a writer so they can write all day, I laugh. Writers probably spend thirty percent of their time, or less, actually writing. The rest is spent doing everything from publicity to organizing the kitchen tupperware cabinet in a valiant effort to procrastinate the writing bit.
This cloudy morning, I sit at my desk and stare vacantly at the now cold half cup of coffee and the slight rim of dried crust around the inside of the mug. My eyes move left to a black writing journal that has pages of ideas for new stories which may grow up to be novels or screenplays, poems or short stories. Going on nearly two months, not a single one has made it from the pages of that journal into a lasting, more permanent combination of words and letters, nouns and verbs.
Closing my eyes, I can literally feel the push and pull inside me of how I value my own progress, how I hold myself accountable, and what ultimately motivates me each day. It's a constant tidal flow of hope and expectation, annoyance and uncertainty, self-punishment and guilt. I know I can be too hard on myself. It's a recurring theme in my life. With time comes age, and age has taught me two primary lessons:
1. I no longer have the metabolism of a gazelle.
2. I have to learn to let go.
The letting go part. That's always been difficult for me. My success is due, in large part, to my persistence and perseverance. Rejection letters are stepping stones, not hard stops. If I let go of my soul's purpose to write, I'd still be working way too hard in some college public relations office rubbing my temples to stem the onslaught of an incoming migraine headache. So the key is to understand what to let go of and what to hang on to.
There is a walk that I like to take in Provincetown through the sand dunes to the Atlantic Ocean. The trailhead starts with a steep mountain of sand that I sometimes have to climb hand over hand to reach the top of, depending on what games the wind has played with the dunes. The first look from atop the initial mountain of sand always takes my breath away. Sand, compass grass, and scrub brush in muted, combat fatigue-simulated colors fill the view from every direction. It's quiet with the exception of the occasional seagull overhead. And then there's the smell – a unique combination of burnt hay and salt water.
Step after step, my feet sink into the sand and I shed all of the expectations and uncertainty, all of the annoyance or guilt. The voices in my head telling me to work harder or be more productive completely cease and I am left utterly alone with myself.
I've been reading a book titled The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer. In it, he says "There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of your mind – you are the one who hears it."
This idea that I am devoid of creativity is just that voice in my head. It's not me. The idea that I'm not productive enough or working hard enough is coming from this constant internal chatter.
Did you ever have a dream when you know you're dreaming? That's called a lucid dream. I had a lucid dream a few nights ago. I knew I was dreaming and I kept very still so as to continue it. (It was a good dream!) The important part here is not what was the dream about. It's that lucid dreams allow us to remember that we have a consciousness that makes us intrinsically who we are outside of our bodies or minds. It's the ultimate answer to "Who are you?" I am not the dream or the dreamer, I am the one aware of both.
I once took a dune walk with a friend who kept saying over and over again how amazed she was that "nothing was there." Granted, the dunes do feel like an alien landscape, but that doesn't mean they are devoid of life. Look closer and you will find the reason why compass grass is named compass grass. You will see tiny footsteps in the sand from mice or fox, skunk or possum, small flowers just over the surface of the sand. You will see the clouds moving above your head and off in the distance, hear the roar of the Atlantic Ocean as it breathes. Life in the dunes is all around you.
The origin of the word devoid is from the French devoidier then Middle English, also meaning "to cast out."
Could it be any more appropriate that the word which now means "empty of, vacant" once meant "to cast out?"
Do you get it yet?
Rather than beating myself up about being devoid, perhaps I should simply look at it another way. Turn the puzzle on its side. I choose to cast out the feeling of being vacant or empty of creativity because it doesn't serve the real me, the consciousness inside me. That feeling is only a weight, an obstruction, a nagging little mind mite who serves no one but itself.
Because while I may not be working right this minute on my next manuscript, there is much happening inside my mind, just underneath the surface. Just like the tiny footsteps in the sand of the dunes, life is being lived. My creativity is deep within me, a river running free and wild. It's not my job to tame it or dam it. It's simply my job to go play inside it when the time is right.