After holding onto a copy borrowed from a friend for over a year, and then borrowing a second copy from another friend (forgetting I still had the first loaner), I finally wised up to the fact that I might just like to purchase a copy of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones for my very own self. It’s a delight to read her again, as good a medicine and inspiration as her Wild Mind was to me four years ago.
Cause I’ve been pushing around a heavy inertia and resistance to art making and writing with a wide stiff broom… even while craving and yearning for those activities. Feeling mixed up about those conflicting energies, and yeah, so much self judgment for being in such a prolonged period of not.
I try to be gentle, I mean, life looks pretty different now, as a parent — all you other creatives with small children I’m sure know what I mean. So much of the time the inertia I’m fighting is just pure exhaustion.
It’s tempting though for the critic to call the inertia laziness. Or, worse, that the inertia is actually a sign of a core inability, incompetence, a symptom of a brokenness that I’m foolish to believe I can heal.
A part of Natalie’s method is all about writing practice, the discipline of writing everyday, of timed writing exercises, and gosh, I wish often that I was that kind of person, that I could yoke my energy to a schedule and fucking get some traction already. But I’ve got to own that discipline and routine, while having its place, is not something that nourishes or encourages me. I can push and push and push myself to hold to form and precision, timeliness and exactitude, but discipline doesn’t inspire me. Discipline has a bludgeoning effect on my heart. Discipline is not the antidote to my inertia.
But reading Natalie is helping in a different way; it’s waking me up. Cause what else might this inertia be? I’m so quick to identify with the sensation and attach feeling to it that I leap to calling the inertia aversion. And maybe sometimes it is. Maybe sometimes my inertia is a quiet fear – fear of trying, and failing, of trying and discovering too much pain and scar tissue to use these muscles again. Fear too, of losing myself in the loneliness of creativity, which has sometimes felt like it has isolated and alienated me from those around me. You can see how easy it would be to go down this rabbit hole of grief and shame and never get around to trying anything.
But what if inertia was just a stickiness, without a feeling tone or any “problem” that needs solving? What if inertia is just a physical quality of the brain and heart being muscles, that like any other muscles, need to warm up? What if some inertia was just normal, no kind of problem, no need to expect zero to 100% action oriented energy on demand? That’s just kind of mean.
Or, or! If inertia really is a symptom, a message to listen to, it could just be a call from my heart for gentleness, for rest. My time is so constrained these days, between work and family responsibilities, that I have this tendency to want, as soon as I have a moment to myself, to leap into painting or writing or sewing or anything, to seize my chance and Be Creative! But while my ego would like that (make a proof that I am still an Individual, still an Artist), it’s probably most often not actually what I need to feel better.
And what do I need? Oh, so many things. Nah, actually, you know, life has got me set up with pretty much all I need: Love, friendship, family, community, safety, food, housing, meaningful work. So what’s missing?
What I feel is lacking is the time and freedom to play. Yeah, just that. I just want to play. Playing, to me, doesn’t mean following rules, and doesn’t happen necessarily on demand. For me, discipline is the opposite of play. And there’s no wrong way to play, no possible way to fail at playing. So how about a broad, sweeping, kind and gentle permission to be curious and joyful, to explore and discover, rather than Produce. Yeah, that sounds pretty appealing!
Ok? So maybe I’ll see you here. Consider this your invitation. I’m not sure if this space can be a playground again or not, I guess we’ll see.
Until next time, I hope you will be gentle with yourselves, too, my friends.