“Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." -Albert Einstein
You’re reading this in January–but I’m writing it in December. We’re all still bumbling through Omicron, trying to figure out what to do: what has to be canceled; what can be scaled back; and what, for our own well being, we just can’t leave behind, no matter the risk.
I’m trying to figure out what I could possibly have to say–about writing no less–that could matter in the face of such questions. Then it dawns on me that these are exactly the questions we ask ourselves about writing all the time.
Of course, the conditions, choices, and risks are all different. There’s a difference between the loss of life and the loss of a line on your CV. But every year, we show up to January tired; determined not to overprep or assign too much reading. And each year we find it hard to cut back; impossible not to be available. In the midst of all our privilege, how can we begrudge someone who needs it a little of our time? Especially now?
Your writing practice asks you the same questions this virus does: What matters? What matters most? And what are you willing to sacrifice to get it? How are you protecting your wellbeing? What mitigation strategies are you using to prevent your work life from degrading your mental and emotional health?
Our writing practice asks us these questions. But to my mind, this isn’t isn’t what makes writing so hard. This is what makes writing so precious. Our writing is where we wrestle with the question of how to do work we believe and feel proud of–without doing harm to ourselves.
The problem is, it’s hard to figure all this out in our heads. That is, we sometimes need to connect to our feelings in order to make the right decision. I personally hate that this is true. I’d much rather stay within the clean lines of the mind and avoid the messiness of the heart. But here’s one way to use our feelings that doesn’t feel too unwieldy. It’s a strategy called the Forward Feeling Reflection. I wrote about it back in 2016 and it’s the first step we take in the Composed Writing Retreat. It’s funny to read it now, in the light of all we’re going through. It seems so naive, the way I thought the before time was hard. Before we knew what hard could look like.
But what still works–what always works–is pausing, listening, and taking ourselves seriously. No big resolutions. No turning over a new leaf. Just the everyday work of showing up for yourself and feeling your way through.
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