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How to swim in an invisible river.
I’ve been taking a break from writing. After I sent my manuscript to my agent at the beginning of May, I proceeded to spend my writing time playing Wordle and Quordle instead. According to my reading log, I didn’t finish a book in the entire month of June. I even slacked on this newsletter, sending you missives every three weeks instead of every two.
I’m generally a very disciplined person. (And a riot at parties, let me tell you!) For a long time, a daily writing practice felt nonnegotiable. If I didn’t have a work-in-progress, an opinion on the current literary discourse, a stack of research for a new project, or a pile of words slowly accumulating and crystallizing, then I couldn’t call myself a writer. My identity, my passion, my purpose—gone, just like that.
Dramatic, I know.
I’ve always loved my birthday, but I remember turning 30 and feeling, in the midst of celebrations, a pang of regret when I realized I’d never be on a 30-Under-30 list. It’s okay! I told myself. There’s still 40-Under-40. Surely I’ll publish *at least* one book by then.
Well. I’m going to be 40 in exactly ten days, and unless something truly miraculous happens, I will end this decade with yet another list left in the dust. Except this time, there’s no pang of regret, no longing look in the rearview mirror. It took a few decades, but I finally trust the process. More importantly, I trust myself.
I don’t throw the term “faith” around lightly. I was raised Catholic and now I’m an atheist, yet there’s always been something holy about art. The mystery of inspiration, the act of creation, the stubborn belief that this time, this book, will be different—it’s practically divine.
Which is why sometimes—especially, for example, in late July, when it’s 104 degrees and even the peppers in the garden are wilting, when everything is humid and slow, when I haven’t written or read a book in weeks, when binge-watching Alone is all my brain can handle—I imagine my creative life like a vast and endless river. Even when I’m miles away, I can hear it in the distance, rushing over rocks and through forests, steady and powerful.
Eventually, I’ll return to the river, just like I’ve done a hundred times before. I’ll dip back into the stream of creativity that runs constantly and never dries up, plunge my fingers into that endless flow of ideas, drink deeply from the source, and begin something new.
Because creativity is not a finite resource. There’s no chance that it’ll run out or disappear. When you’re ready for it and open to it, it’ll be waiting for you. You just have to believe that it’s still there, to have faith that you’ll find your way back. The river is never exactly where you left it, but it’s always within reach. Trust me.
Better yet, trust yourself.
My company has embraced a pretty flexible hybrid schedule. I usually go to the office Tuesday through Thursday, which is the perfect balance of focus-at-home-in-yoga-pants, and see-actual-humans-in-real-life. This past week, some colleagues and I went out to lunch at Vicious Biscuit, a new spot that opened up across the street from HQ, and it was extremely my jam. I had The ‘Mater—a fried green tomato and generous dollop of pimento cheese, embraced by a fresh, fluffy buttermilk biscuit. The hybrid life is delicious! 🍅
“More young people are opting not to have kids not only because they can’t afford them but also because they assume they’ll have only a scorched or sodden wasteland to grow up in. An increasingly popular retirement plan is figuring civilization will collapse before you have to worry about it. I’m not sure anyone’s composed a more eloquent epitaph for the planet than the stand-up comedian Kath Barbadoro, who tweeted: ‘It’s pretty funny that the world is ending and we all just have to keep going to our little jobs lol.’”
Just some fun light reading for your Sunday!!! 🙃
To balance out the previous article (which really is pretty funny and full of good advice) I loved these ideas from Anne Helen Petersen about building community, being a good friend, asking for what you need, and giving what you can. The best anti-scam! 💛
“[A] book—specifically, a good one—is also a thing that money and power and ambition can’t give you. None of the trappings of literary success—which can be quick, and flashy, and very exciting—can substitute for the (singular, difficult, slow, and at times unbearable) work of writing.”
Speaking of literary discourse, Carmen Maria Machado has some great points of the role and responsibility of MFA programs when it comes to actually selling your art. 💸
Thank you to Greg T. for keeping the trickle of support so steady!
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