Historically, I haven’t exactly been the paragon of patience when it comes to my writing. It doesn’t help that, like most of us, the lion’s share of written work I was producing was on deadline – first for school, then for work. But even now I’ve allowed my diplomas to gathering dust in a box somewhere and I’ve stepped out of the corporate stream, I think it’s impossible to live in the 21st century and not get bitten by the bug of busyness, to constantly suffer from the feverish desire to produce as quickly and as completely as possible.
That said, showing up regularly (not daily, or even methodically, but regularly) to writing practice for the past decade or so has taught me that the ability to wait for work is just as important as the ability to produce it on command – perhaps even more so. In fact, I’m convinced that 99.9% of writer’s block is a fundamental and essential hallmark of the writing process: your intuition or creativity putting on the breaks when your rabbit brain and A+, #1, get-the-bus-there-on-time personality traits are scurrying around, full of their own empty self-importance. Think of it this way: we think nothing of the importance of aging wine, or curing meat, or even the wisdom that (sometimes) comes with age, but god forbid our best work not flow from our fingers like water every time we want it to.
I’d even go so far as to say that putting misplaced pressure on a writer’s block has caused me to ultimately slow progress. When I rush just to put something down, oftentimes I’m not listening or capturing the depth of what my subconscious is developing, and the dough deflates prematurely as a result.
I know we’re all worried that we could grow to indulgent on such an approach, allowing ourselves to sit back and eat bon bons when we should be muscling our way through the next chapter. To that I say, it’s a tough world, and your life comes first, so if you’re happy sitting back and eating bon bons, even if you could be muscling through your work, please take your pleasure. But if some small part of you is uneasy as you munch away, if even chocolate isn’t quite sitting right, you’ll know that you’re avoiding something that needs your attention, and you’ll have to get up and stab around a bit until you find it. Taking your time isn’t always easy or comfortable, but it’s a quality of attention that is every bit as important as whatever you might process and produce at lightning speed.
The bottom line is that the importance of learning to trust yourself cannot be underestimated when it comes to producing creative work, nor can we continue to dismiss the peace and self-satisfaction that comes with self-awareness as signs of indulgence or complacency. A writer’s work is often cultivated over time, and for good reason. The point of writing is not to get somewhere faster, after all; in fact, it’s often to find out what we’ve been running away from all along.
Art: Vincent Van Gogh, Wheatfield under Thunderclouds