Like most writers, I seem to have my artistic epiphanies at the most inconvenient of times and places. There was the time I was driving cross-country by myself when a flash of inspiration hit but was soon lost when I couldn't pull over to record it. Another story-related revelation brought me out of a deep sleep in full running mode which, in turn, caused me to fall over my nightstand. This time, my epiphany occurred soon after I brought all the new goodies for this website online. It was simple and to the point: namely, I realized that all my time was spent hurrying from one marketing "to-do" to another, leaving very little time - or energy - for actual writing. Moreover, I was unhappy. So unhappy, in fact, that it caused my husband to ask me a question that might as well have been a lightening strike: "Are you sure this is what you want to do?"
Too Much Work
"Every so often, I need OUT; something will throw me into total disproportion, and I have to get away from everybody...in order to regain a sense of proportion." - Madeleine L'Engle
I didn't intend to get out. It just happened. I simply stopped writing blog entries. I didn't visit social sites or scan twenty different articles before tasting breakfast. I had more thoughts and epiphanies, all surrounding this work, work, work attitude we all have.
Much as we, individually and as a society, don't want to admit it, there is such a thing as too much work. We even used to call those who did too much of it workaholics. Not so much anymore. Society praises those who have no time on their hands as successful contributors to modern invention, technological progress, or improved sociability.
This is especially true for anyone labeled an entrepreneur. For them, the experts say, work is never done and, if they want to get ahead in their respective careers, work should never be done. These experts then prove that point by presenting all the entrepreneurs who have become millionaires from turning a proven concept on its head or by just being too damn stubborn to know when to stop.
The implication is that there is something intrinsically flawed in those who do not wish to work their lives away. Worse, for those who actively pull time for non-work related activities, a knowing shake of the head proclaims this type to be woefully behind the times. At best, he or she is an amateur who is simply not interested in being successful.
"Work is not always required of a man. There is such a thing as sacred idleness, the cultivation of which is now fearfully neglected." - George MacDonald
To rest one's soul, to take ideal time away from the concerns and hurries of our over saturated world, is necessary for everyone and especially the artist. Only from thought, consideration, and observation can stories - good stories - evolve. Imagination has no room to grow in a steady barrage of noise and distractions. If imagination cannot grow, what hope have artists of producing work that speaks to others, resonates with the soul, and leads imaginations to bloom?
All of this isn't to turn the stink eye back on those who do like/must/do work incessantly. It's also not to promote laziness. But balance and regular periods of rest and reflection should not be overlooked in importance to our overall well-being.
Time for Being
"I’ve long since stopped feeling guilty about taking being time; it’s something we all need for our spiritual health, and often we don’t take enough of it...When I am consciously running there is no time for being. When there is no time for being there is no time for listening." - Madeleine L'Engle
The last two weeks have been glorious. Once again, I pulled out my trusty old mechanical pencil and the notebooks I start every story with. I've observed and written and pondered and written some more. My joy in creating has returned, leaving me loathe to return to my previous activities.
But the experts do have one thing right: all those online activities do have their place. I'll keep blogging and chatting with you all on social media. I just don't know if I'll publish on a regular schedule or not. I'm still figuring the details out. When I know, you'll know!
And perhaps when I have dozens of published books to my name, I'll be allowed to be a cantankerous recluse....
If you're an artist (and even if you're not), how can taking "being" time help you?
Image by William Woodward at wheretowillie.com.