This is a busy week for me. The marking period marches along, Spirit Week at the high school requires a fair amount of ingenuity and elbow grease, and I have until the 30th to upload part one of my current project for a peer critique in early June. (I'm not sure I actually took a breath while typing that sentence.)
Mix in a demanding toddler, a pre-teen with a pre-attitude, a dedicated attempt to lose weight and I'm pretty sure it's the recipe for to the bone exhaustion. I've been ending my days in a Sarah puddle. Not to mention the blogging, the tweeting, the writing, the editing, and the other things I should be doing each and every day, right?
Wrong. Absolutely wrong. And I'm embarrassed to admit that my daughter Sophia figured this out well before I did.
"Mommy, stop." Her voice was quiet at first, and I was too busy multitasking to acknowledge her. "Mommy." Sadly still ignoring the voice as parents often do when trying to be productive. "Mommy stoooooooooooop," she hollered. Her face turned red and her tiny teeth chattered. "It's raining. It's raining. It's raining."
I need to listen to Sophia more often. I put everything down, I leaned over the back of the sofa in our living room and gazed out the window with her at the rain. I stopped thinking about anything that wasn't framed in the window. Blooming trees. Thousands of drops. The rhythm against the house. I haven't felt that good in days. Possibly weeks. And I didn't want to stop.
We live in a society hell bent on production, and being a writer offers added pressure. We are not Hemingway on a boat or in a fist fight living life. We are techno folks behind a screen developing images, typing words at lightning speed faster than our brains can think, reading blogs telling us to do better. Be better. We're liking statuses on Facebook, liking our own statuses - something I don't do but it drives me batty when I see it, and herding people into our virtual corral. And this just isn't, in my humble opinion, what writing is all about.
Creativity loves silence. Or if there is noise, authentic noise tends to hit the spot. Real voices with intonation, thunderous applause at a concert or ripping a piece of paper in half when the writing on it doesn't work. The glut of resources at our virtual fingertips can overwhelm and lose value. Minimally I worry that it's too easy to forget what's real. Watching life and living it are two distinctly different experiences. And I know that I feel the most depleted when I've been sitting for too long as a spectator. It's the easier choice to be one, but it's not the best.
I'm certainly not advocating sacrificing electronic communication or entertainment. Obviously you're reading my blog right now, and I know I'll be watching Survivor at 8 and texting with friends later on. Rather I'm suggesting that you make a simple pie chart of time spent actively living versus time spent as a spectator or voyeur. If the latter overwhelms, ask yourself a simple question. What is real?
After careful reflection, the best part of my day (before the rain episode with Sophia) occurred in study hall with two students energized by an idea for a play that they're writing. And while I did have my phone out playing Candy Crush from time to time, the best moments were the ones where I could almost see the ideas bouncing back and forth between the two of them. I think that's why I relish teaching. I witness inspiration like that every day. And the best days are when it comes from an unusual student I would have never guessed had the tornado brewing in them.
This evening I won't throw away all electronics and move into the yurt I so desperately want to buy for the backyard. But when I think about the writing craft and creativity, I am definitively detaching all of the baggage I have lately muddled it with. It's going to be me, a notepad, and a rainstorm. Or a quiet room, or one where my toddler might be braiding my hair. But at heart it's going to be just me and the writing. Ridiculous expectations and chaotic noise, I'm just not that into you anymore.
Writing has always been an escape, a passion, and a friend. And I love the fact that in my free time and through my career I can help others discover their voice, too.