Thursday, January 26, 2017
Do Something Else
I've hit the wall.
It happens. Not a lot (thank goodness) and I don't "give up writing" like I did twenty years ago.
(I can't tell you how many walks through the streets of Vancouver with the dog started out with me no longer a writer, only to have walked and talked myself back to the fold and ready to keep going. No wonder the dog sighed so often.)
Hitting the wall happens with anyone -- athletes, artists, architects -- who ultimately works alone. To nail that vault, to run that spring faster, to paint that particular landscape, to design that seaside home, it comes down to the individual. The coach, the mentor, the teacher can make all the suggestions they want, can holler and taunt and encourage, can do tough love or gentle nurturing, but in the end, if the goal is going to be achieved, it is on one person only.
There is only one person staring at the blank computer screen.
So that's the wall I've hit: the "I'm It" wall. Right now, that wall is huge. I can't see over it and I can't see around it. There are fingerholds and toeholds but they are spread soooo far apart.
I don't know if I can jump high enough to reach the first one.
I don't know if I can reach far enough.
I don't know if I'm strong enough, brave enough, stretchy enough.
But I've been here before. I know this wall. I know that there is a way to make it disappear. So I'm doing what needs to be done by anyone who is standing with their nose pressed into the rough surface of that damn wall: I'm ignoring it. I'm giving it the back. I'm turning around and --
Oh, look! There's something else I can do!
I can go skating.
I can edit that short story.
I can go to the movies with Jane.
I can talk to someone for my next column.
I can bake cookies until my husband yells, "Mercy!"
It's like a freezing rain storm: You're stuck in the house and the power is out so instead of moping around because you have no internet connection, you do something else. You read all day. You organize the storage room. You play Scrabble. So by the end of the day, you feel like you've had a break, you feel like you've accomplished something that you've been wanting to do, and look! The ice has melted off the trees and the internet satellite, and just now the power is back on.
And the whole time I'm doing all that other stuff, engaging all those other parts of my brain, the wall is shrinking.
Because a tiny part of my brain, that I'm not conscious of because I'm ignoring it, too, is hacking away at that wall while I'm busy doing other things. That part of my brain is beavering away at the project that brought me to the wall and it's chewing away, leaving exposed those ideas I need, building up connections between the ideas, dragging all the materials I need into a pile I can work with.
By the time the other projects -- the story and the table of contents and the cookies -- are completed, by the time I'm feeling exhilarated by fresh air and snowflakes, by chocolate and popcorn,
all of a sudden,
that wall isn't so large and wide, and I know exactly how to climb it, maybe even leap over it, and carry on without hearing the last of it crumble into a heap of rubble behind me.
Sometimes ignoring a problem really is the best way to make it go away.
So when I say "Do something else", I don't mean "give up". I really do mean find something else to do.
Go for a walk.