Levels of responsibility
Getting to work
I always come back. Haven’t I written that before? I always come back, even when it seems impossible, even when I’ve been gone forever. I always come back, because coming back is all I know — returning to myself, to my practice, to the daily discipline of believing in my vision.
A few weeks ago, my dad — who is also my primary caregiver — came down with Covid. I was lucky in that I managed not to catch it from him. But it sent our family into chaos. My mom, who works full-time, had to step in as my primary caregiver, on top of caring for our new, particularly needy kitten. Every aspect of our lives ground to a halt.
I tried to pretend that things were normal. I even went so far as to plan my next round of book revisions, hoping that I’d be able to focus. But I had no motivation. I was worried about my dad and stressed to the point of overwhelm. As much as I wanted to be productive, I very simply couldn’t.
So I stopped trying. I gave myself permission to do nothing but play video games for a week and a half. I decided to trust in the inevitability of my own return — that I would come back to my practice once I had the capacity to do so.
Things are slowly starting to settle. My dad has picked up caregiving again; my brain feels less cluttered, more capable. I’m returning to social media after a brief hiatus.
And yet I’m hesitant, maybe because I’m rusty. I always come back. I know that in my bones. But it’s the act of coming back that’s proving difficult. What if I’ve forgotten how to write? What if my betas have been lying to me, and TSATS is actually terrible?
Early this week, I sent a voice message to some friends about the state of my brain. I woke up feeling off. I wasn’t depressed so much as utterly convinced of my own inadequacy. I knew with all the certainty of someone who, in fact, knows nothing that it would never be enough. What, you might ask? To which I say: everything!!!!!!!
I am not enough. My words are not enough. My social media presence, my skin, even my cat — none of it is enough.
The other day, a friend told me that things come to her exactly when she needs them. I knew instinctively what she meant, because the same thing happens to me. Sometimes it’s a song. Sometimes it’s a book or video game. Sometimes it’s a cat, or an acquaintance, or an impeccably timed DM.
This tweet came to me exactly when I needed it. I’d spent the better portion of a week fretting about my writing — every word was a slog, to the point where part of me wanted to throw in the towel. What was the point? Nothing about me will ever be good enough!
Then Twitter punched me in the face.
I love the idea of “creating conditions for the emergence of our desired state.” In an ideal world, I would sit at my desk, write 1,000 words in 40 minutes, and be done for the day. But that rarely ever happens.
I’m not a proponent of writing every day. It works for some people, which is great! I’m happy for them! But it doesn’t work for me, and as a general rule, I try not to judge the talent of a creative by their devotion and/or their propensity for self-denial. Life happens. Sometimes we write, sometimes we don’t.
But there’s a level of responsibility that is important to acknowledge. There are things we can control. We sit at the desk. We stare at the page. We grasp at words like fireflies, hoping they’ll set fire to our world. Sometimes the light grows brighter; sometimes it sputters out. What matters is the showing up.
Poet Richard Hugo puts it this way:
“Once a spectator said, after Jack Nicklaus had chipped a shot in from a sand trap, ‘That’s pretty lucky.’ Nicklaus is suppose to have replied, ‘Right. But I notice the more I practice, the luckier I get.’ If you write often, perhaps every day, you will stay in shape and will be better able to receive those good poems, which are finally a matter of luck, and get them down. Lucky accidents seldom happen to writers who don’t work. You will find that you may rewrite and rewrite a poem and it never seems quite right. Then a much better poem may come rather fast and you wonder why you bothered with all that work on the earlier poem. Actually, the hard work you do on one poem is put in on all poems. The hard work on the first poem is responsible for the sudden ease of the second. If you just sit around waiting for the easy ones, nothing will come. Get to work.”
If you just sit around waiting for the easy ones, nothing will come.
So that is my practice for the coming month. Sitting at the desk. Staring at the page. Indulging in the stream of what is the point I am the worst I will never ever be good enough, because that is life, that is living — and then getting to work.
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This article made me think of this TED talk which, if you’ve never seen it, seems like it’s something you would be into. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86x-u-tz0MA
Oh I loved this Brianna, especially that quote from Richard Hugo. Glad to hear your dad is on the mend and he can support you again