Today is Sabbath and I am trying, with everything in my being, to walk it out.
I’m not a Sabbath type of girl. If I am not hustling then I really don’t know what to be doing. I spent the first 5 years of my career being allergic to the concept of rest. I first started to see this as a budding problem when I really didn’t have anything to talk about besides work. More than that, I started to see that work was a cover-up for me. A safety zone. Something I could hide behind to keep people from getting too close.
2015 has been a year where I have come at my ugly roots with a weed wacker. And, as a result, I’ve been learning to rest. And break. And figure out what makes me happy.
So today Sabbath looks like me wrapped in my favorite reliable flannel (though the thermometer is sweating at nearly 90 degrees), sipping tea on my countertop, and writing words without a word count to aim for. To me, this is space is not work. It’s life-giving.
I’ve always prayed to God about this little corner of the internet, “God, don’t make this space one where I need to perform. Let it be a place where you are louder, I am smaller, and, through this language, people realize they’re capable. More than capable… brave.” He has kept me at my word.
He has let me come here, day after day, and not worry about metrics or reader stats or ads. Just the practice of writing.
I get a lot of emails from people asking about my writing process. What it looks like. How long it lasts. How I know when I am finished with something. Mind you, you’re hearing from a girl who used to (and sometimes still does) apply rules to everything. Ask me these sorts of question three years ago and I would have only given you a polished answer. That’s all I gave people for a long time: really polished things.
Now my answer to the “writing process” questions can be summed up fast: write a ton of words. When you feel like it. When you don’t feel like it. ESPECIALLY when you don’t feel like it. When you are hormonal. When you are sad. When you are heartbroken. And after first dates. And always after the moments where you find yourself pausing and saying, “I really don’t want to forget this.” Write those moments down. You will forget.
Don’t just write a ton of words. Write a ton of crappy words. Write letters of closure to old boyfriends. Rewrite the Psalms in your own language. Do whatever you can to make the words come out.
I used to believe in Writer’s Block because it gave me a really good excuse to not be writing. You can tell anyone, anywhere, that you have Writer’s Block and they will understand. They will nod their head and agree with you.
There is no blockage, friend. The “block” that writers talk about does not exist. At the very least, the writing process is like learning how to drive a standard vehicle. There is a great deal of preparation before you even start moving. Once you do start moving, you are likely to stall out. A lot. But, with every stall, there is a chance to restart the engine and try again. Eventually you will get to first gear. And then second. And then third. You’ll be cruising.
I am willing to bet that not many stall out and then decide not to restart the engine until 6 weeks later when they feel inspired to try again. You restart the engine because there is a place to go. You stall out and you keep going.
The same practice of determination should be applied to writing: you stall out and you keep going. You stall out and you pick up the pen again because there is a place to go. The day you stop seeing your words are created to transport someone somewhere else, you might as well quit.
At the center of every writing day for me, there is an hour I spend walking. It’s arguably my most productive writing hour of the day and I write nothing down within it.
I leave my phone behind. I bring no distractions with me. I give myself a purpose in that one hour: drop off the mail at the Post Office. I could easily drive to the Post Office but something happens as I walk. I think. I write things in my head. My brain has a chance to breathe and detach from the empty space of a word document. The pressure to always know what comes next.
The walk to the Post Office is 1.6 miles. I weave around the neighborhood after I drop off the mail. That’s an extra mile. And then I walk back. In total, I am walking at least 4 miles a day.
My route is usually always the same. I trot down Metropolitan. I snake up Eastside. I stop by to see my friends at Brother Moto. I greet the homeless on their benches along Glenwood. I visit my old house on Blake. I pass by Newton and shoot up Van Epps.
Three days ago, I was walking and about to turn down the road that would get me home the quickest. Clouds were forming. I could tell it was going to rain. But something inside of me told me to keep walking. I felt it coming on strong, “Keep going.”
I thought to myself, I don’t know the way if I keep going. It’s not a route I am familiar with. But I listen– because I believe in hunches and gut feelings– and I keep going.
I bob down connecting streets for a while, really unsure of where I am. The clouds are still collecting and it begins to sprinkle. I keep walking because I have no other option. I don’t have a phone. I have to trust that I will figure it out. I will find my way.
Eventually, and pretty quickly, it is pouring. The rain is coming down hard, and harder, and harder. I am drenched. And it occurs to me that this is probably one of the first times I have involuntarily gotten caught in the rain. We talk about dancing in the rain all the damn time but every time I have danced in the rain, it was because I wanted to. Because I planned it way to feel the spontaneity in my lungs.
I’ve never been placed in this spot before where I must keep walking, and I must keep going through the rain, because I have no other choice. All that surrounds me is the houses of people I don’t know. The trees can’t shield from this kind of rain. This is the hard rain.
You and I both probably thought this would be a piece on writing and it turns out that the real superstar of the day is rain.
Rain. The rain you can’t control. Just one of the things you cannot control in a world where we love to be dictators to whatever our hands get to hold. In that moment, I felt the freedom of having no control. No direction. No GPS to bring me home, just the assurance in my gut that I would get home eventually.
I would be soaked. I would be muddy. But I would eventually get home because, after all, it was my gut that told me to keep going in the first place.
Keep going and moving and pushing into the places where you don’t know the way, it said.
If you always knew the way, if you always knew the words that would come out of you when the pen hit the page, then where would spontaneity and grace and failure and dependency get their runway? If you want spontaneity, you must give it a catwalk. If you want something new to happen, you must sacrifice the maps. If you want real direction, you must let go of the thing inside of you that knows it would take all the credit when you finally found your way. Pride isn’t a canteen meant to fuel you as you go, it’s a journey killer. Pride will dehydrate you. It will take you down.
When I finally get home, sopping wet but skin glowing, I take no credit. I feel lighter knowing that it wasn’t my control– my need for everything to be polished– that brought me back to my door. It’s never the control, it’s always the moment you surrender to something else mapping the way.
I stand at the door and I wonder why I worry so much. I always make it home eventually. Even with the rain.
Arguably, there’s never been a time where I got so lost but never found my way. I am always, somehow, found– regardless of how much or how little I try to control the journey leading up to that point.
I don’t remember when I turned left or when I turned right. The details fall away quickly.
I only remember that thing in my gut as I wash the rain my hair, that thing in my gut that pulled me when it said, “Keep going, even when you don’t know the way.”