“Hey!” I find myself saying to myself once or twice a day, “What are you planning to do with that ROW80 goal? You know, the one where you said you’d write daily journal entries based on the prompts in The Pen and the Bell? I haven’t noticed you doing much with that lately.”
In response I basically put my fingers in my ears and say, “La, la, la!” Or I try to distract myself by commenting on other people’s blogs or calculating nutritional information for all of my favorite smoothie recipes.
But today I decided to just admit that I’m taking a detour from those goals. I’m not scrapping the whole trip or even changing the destination, just allowing myself to wander about on back roads and take a more roundabout route. I’ve decided to enjoy the scenery a bit instead of trying to power through to the end.
For example, I’ve been exercising six days a week for the past month. Not huge exercise sessions, mostly just 20-30 minutes a day, with an occasional 1-hour lower intensity workout thrown in there when I can find the time. These workouts give me time to let my brain wander while my body is engaged in other things, they help reduce my stress level, and they seem to improve my mood (ie, I seem to be yelling less and I must be swearing less because my three-year-old no longer sounds like a little sailor). All of these things help me feel more confident and playful, two things that I find crucial for writing.
Another example: today I joined the choir at church. I’ve been wanting to join a choir since I was in 6th grade (which was a few years ago now), and I’ve always been too nervous to try it, even though I love to sing. In that sense, I guess I’ve taken a 25-year detour on my journey to joining the choir, so this has been a detour within a detour. I must really like taking alternate routes.
Things shifted last Sunday at church when I sat next to a member of the choir during the service. We shared a hymnal, so I knew that he could hear me sing, and I hoped I sounded okay.
Actually, I hoped I sounded great, and I engaged in a little fantasy in which he would think I sang so well that he would suggest I join the choir, which was, of course, really silly, like those fantasies I had back in elementary school that someone would “discover” me standing in line with my mom at the grocery store and I’d become a famous child model (which for me meant appearing in the JCPenney catalog or—if I were engaging in an especially extravagant fantasy that day—a Jello Pudding Pop commercial).
Like I said, really, really silly.
Then after the service as we were putting on our coats and getting ready to leave, he said, “You know, you should join the choir.”
I don’t put that much stock in signs and omens and manifesting specific things in one’s life, but sometimes fantasy and reality just click in a way that I find impossible to ignore. So I went home and e-mailed the choir director, and she invited me to join them for practice the following week. Which was today. And which was awesome. The group is so friendly and inviting, and no one yelled at me when I hit a wrong note or accidentally sang on a rest. I got to stand there and feel the resonance in my chest as my voice blended with all of those other voices and reverberated through the meeting house. And I came home feeling a sense of love for humankind and a feeling of joyful anticipation for whatever the rest of the month has in store for me.
Neither exercise nor joining the choir has anything to do, really, with writing, but both help clear away some of the defensive procrastination that keeps me from engaging in the type of play that puts words on the page. Lack of energy, fear of sounding silly, fear of feeling lost—exercise and facing my fear of joining the choir help me detour around these road blocks and actually sit down and write.