Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Do What Really Matters

I am trying to put together a book proposal for a new collection of essays. This means I need a Table of Contents, a description of the book, an outline of its market and promotion ideas and three sample essays.
I've been working on this project for the entire month of January yet I feel like I haven't found a foothold yet. The stories are there, ready to be written; I can feel them inside me, pecking away from inside their eggs but I can't seem to get them to break through and be hatched.
That's makes me holler a very cartoony "ARGH!"

I realized last night that everything that is going on since the inauguration of DJT is infecting my brain, affecting my creativity.
I watch the news and like to be informed, but lately, my interest is verging on obsession. I'm not an anxious person but these last few months since the election have made me feel anxious. I don't deal well with nastiness, unfairness and lies, and this new administration, and a nation's reaction to it, is like a train wreck you have to keep watching.

So I woke up this morning and thought, I need to take a news and social media break. I need to be totally and utterly consumed by this book project, not by what's happening in the United States.
I like being informed and a smart phone make it easy to be dialled in all the time - I can check my work email easily but just as easily, I can check Twitter which has turned into a curse the last ten days. I've allowed myself to become distracted, to internalize worry and fear. That's not what I want my new normal to be.
It's not that I think anyone is going to miss me if I take a break from Twitter and Facebook; I'm worried I'm going to miss something. But I've decided if the revolution happens, I'm not going to miss it so I can take a three-day break for the sake of some intense and focused writing. Because truly, the only thing I'm missing by being endlessly tuned into social media is my own creativity.

I am a "feel good" writer but I've been struggling to write these new essays because I don't feel good. Thank goodness I'd written this week's Field Notes column on Saturday because there was no way, after waking up to the new of the fatal shooting at a mosque in Quebec City, that I would have been able to write this week's "feel good" column.
I also know, and trust in this process, of needing quiet, focused time in order to let ideas percolate and bubble to the surface where I can see them and hear them and touch them.
Just this morning, while sitting in our sunny living room and starting to read the book that has inspired my next Field Notes column (Feb. 15), the author wrote in chapter one, "Having completely sworn off mindless hours frittered away on Facebook..." and I thought, Yes! Sometimes I find an article on FB that works perfectly for an upcoming church sermon but mostly, my scrolling is frittering.

I put down the book and reached for my notebook. A ha! My two favourite things: reading and writing. They were my constant companions before FB and Twitter and Instagram became professional necessities, before I had a smart phone, before the end of the world as we know it.

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