The Trades I Make

The last week and a half, I let my creative writing time go.  It’s a decision I seldom allow, making exceptions only when I am away on vacation or my routine becomes so disrupted it interferes with sleep. I don’t bounce back quickly after sleep is sacrificed. 

These last years of early morning waking for quiet reflection and writing, I have learned that with any break in routine, the fear of inadequacy floods in, and the time to get back into routine, back into a free flowing creative state, takes me twice as long (at least) as the time  that I “take off”. So, stopping the creative writing routine is not a decision I make lightly. It’s too costly.  

I wish I could say it wasn’t due to COVID-19…I read so many artists explaining this time has robbed them of creative spirit.  But it’s not like that exactly.  No, in the wake of the pandemic my role at my job has swerved—a twist of irony that can’t be ignored—toward more writing.  I’m writing for our regional medical officer of health.  I write whatever and whenever he requests.  I’ve ratcheted up my [work] productivity to a level I haven’t had to in years.    And last week I worked against the clock to complete a scientific review of research literature to write a proposal submitted to the province requesting regional easing of restrictions in areas with lower incidence of the disease.  

I’m enjoying the challenge at work.  Though last week the hours were punishing, and everything slid sideways to accomplish it. But that productivity level won’t be the norm.  This week should see things settling back into routine. But that’s not really what I wanted to write about here…sometimes the setup is too long to get to where you’re trying to get to.  What I’m curious about and even somewhat ashamed to ask, is: why it is that I will put my head down and work that hard for “my job”, or for someone else, or …let’s call it something extrinsic to myself, and not do the same for my own creative writing projects?  A fraction of that energy to my own creative work would have seen a list of publications or painted canvases.

Ah.  But even writing that last sentence I see how easily I slip into chasing products again, instead of sinking into process, as one does into a downy pillow after a long day.  Still, it would do me good to explore what it is (why it is?) that makes it easier to perform for others as opposed to for myself.  Like a trained circus animal.  

But that’s exactly it, isn’t it…a denial of one’s wilder instincts to ensure steady meals on the table. Avoiding the discomfort in the wilderness of unknowns; the unpredictable traded for an illusion of control, a fairy tale of certainty.  

It amazes me always how the writing will get you where you need to get to, to answer questions.  Part of the process is having the courage to ask questions.  But also, a willingness to trample into the bare unknowns, where the answers are often harsh and unforgiving.