Some people call it writer’s block, but for me, it’s more like malaise. I looked it up: “a vague or unfocused feeling of mental uneasiness, lethargy, or discomfort.” I’ve had it for the last month (or more) and I have put less than 500 words (or prayers) to page. This is not good. I need to get back on some solid ground.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
Here’s a bit of confession: I haven’t felt like writing. It’s a grievous mistake, I know, because writing (like prayer) cannot be done out of feelings alone. It’s a discipline. A persistence. A slogging-on despite the circumstances. My favorite metaphor for endurance and doggedness leaps up: the tortoise of Tortoise & Hare fame. But you see, I have given way to the Hare again, round and round and round I go, no closer to the finish line, and off the path.
Another confession: if I am not writing, you can assume I’m not praying. The two have gone hand in hand for the last several years and apparently, the Muse has departed, the Spirit hides behind a cloud, and the galloping horse of time has whipped through my apparently delicate balance of personal retreat with both God and Muse and daily life.
It’s not that daily life is a bad thing. I’ve had an amazing number of experiences and involvements over the past six weeks, from travel to Europe to visit extended family to my Navy son visiting for two weeks and second trip out west. Each agenda was full of laughter and joy and healing. I was much blessed. But. . . I took no time alone. Each day I hit the ground running and every minute was loaded. And really, that’s not so bad in itself. I know. But, once I returned to the days and minutes of normalcy and anticipated routine, I had no anchored place or time. I no longer retreated to my favorite chair (or if I did, I woke up an hour later) and I no longer had a plan for study since I just completed my New Testament journey of echoes, prayers, and meditations. Everything has come to a point all at once and, since my way is unclear, I am still standing at a crossroads of sorts. Where do I go from here?
And the worst of it all? When I stop doing something, I tend to forget how to do it. This is most clearly illustrated in a foreign language. Use it or lose it.
To get good at writing, one must write; and to get good at prayer, one must pray. No other way.
I am amazed how easily and quickly I lost my routine of prayer and writing. In the past, I had conquered malaise by keeping track of my time. I know that sounds anal, but it worked! Each time the inner voice of condemnation would attack me because I missed a day or two of prayerful meditation and study, I had facts to shore me up. Sure, I missed a day, but in a year, I’ve gotten it right over 70 or 80 or even 90% of those 365 days. So, “evil voice,” back off! I’m ok.
That pattern has worked for the last five years.
And in the writing department, I became a great fan of Anne Lamott and her book, Bird by Bird, who encouraged me to start writing, 300 words a day, every day! And I did. I even completed a manuscript that way. But then, the next step was editing and cutting and slashing and changing and re-writing and soon, 300 words could no longer be used as a measure. I faltered. I am once again unsure, beleaguered by another voice or worse, silence. I tried to give myself a little credit, after all, I was still blogging. At least, I was. I did.
Breathe. I gotta breathe here.
Today, a holiday, I woke with the determination that I would count it a victory day over lassitude and melancholy. I would pray. I would write. I would tend to my inner self. So, how did that go: I slept more than anything else with books on my lap and pen falling to the floor, tea growing cold. I lost four hours of my day to malaise, true malaise. Shortly, I must go to the grocery store for dinner. The day is flying by.
And yet, I do have this to show myself. I am sitting here right now. I made it this far. I crept over the edge. And tomorrow, hopefully, I will make the next step.
It’s time to choose. A way.