Finding a New Rhythm


My husband has been walking for about 10 days now.

It's been a transition back, as he's gone back to his office and I've converted my own studio back from convalescent room to workspace and refuge. The first day everyone was gone it was SO QUIET. And it's interesting how quiet can become a stranger to us, even as we long for it. We simply forget how to be in its company.

I had all this expectation on myself, as if NOW I would be like a racehorse out the gate, fast and unhindered. My phone friends heard this kind of pressure in my voice and urged me to take it easy. To stare out of windows. To not feel that every second now needed to be productive to make up for something--it's only an illusion that anything has been lost.

It was a good thing they did, because the next day it was as if two months' worth of fatigue hit me all at once, like that big let-down after college finals when we usually got sick.  I had a long list of things to do, but no reserve to work from. So I wrote about this cycle I go through of clearing space, rest, and rapid execution, and I tried to believe, as I struggle to every time, that the productivity and clarity would be there waiting for me on the other side of clearing space and rest.

I broke down boxes, and took out recycling. I put things in their place. I watched a lot of Wallander (the Swedish version) on Netflix streaming. I took baths. I walked around the block. But mostly I just waited.

It's funny because the old-school approach to getting work done--the entrepreneurial, management-style approach--says that if we start clearing our spaces or wanting to read in bed, we're just avoiding our work. That we should "push through" and keep in motion.

But that approach has never worked for me in the realm of creative work. Clearing space and resting are as essential to my productivity as the sun and water parts are for growing plants.

I fight against these spells as those old voices nag me, and one day last week I did try to do some work. I was looking over my notes yesterday, which reminded me of the ones I took in college just after lunch, when I would struggle to stay awake through the entire lecture. (Even with the lights on, even when I sat in the front row.) The letters and words are uneven and ragged and difficult to read. The thoughts are so vague in spots that the ideas are even hard to follow.

But my notes yesterday looked like they were written by a completely different person. Even and ordered, in columns and categories. I even banged out a couple things on the list like they were no big deal.

I'm finding a rhythm again--one that's not dictated and structured by external needs but is directed and guided by something internal. It is being at the source of doing. It is the way I keep proving to myself over and over again that if I'm well cared for, the work takes care of itself.

What rhythms are appearing in your creative process? What essential elements are you learning you need to do your best work?