Slowing on down (in life & in writing)
I love this picture. It’s of one of my sons. I’ll let your wonderful imagination fill in just what he is playing at with his stick (no wrong answers here). I love this picture because it makes me take a breath, to slow down, to register that things go too fast. For better and worse, this here shadow is getting longer everyday.
I dunno about you but I have a tendency to rush, to over-multitask, to juggle. The results are predictably variable. Productive? Sometimes. Disasterous? Rarely (knock on wood). Less than ideal? Yep. (See evidence A, fresh from the washing machine). Factor in the holidays and it only goes faster!
Everything about rushing and multitasking is true in my writing life too. When I forget to find some stillness, my writing stalls (ironically enough). The page stays blank. The muse stays silent. The plots elude me. As I type this, there are 4 tabs open in my browser (a record low, perhaps), at least 5 other applications up and running, and two story snippets waiting to be fleshed out. When I get to the end of a session of “working” like this (and work is a loosely used word both because of my distraction level and my pjs), I know a bunch more about what’s happening on Twitter, have viewed the worlds of well-known and barely-known friends on Facebook, and may have typed a bit here or there but the whole session ends with nothing good written and me feeling drained and yech.
Yech is the newly coined technical term for what it feels like when your actions are inconsistent with your priorities. It’s a sluggish, tapped-out feeling that reminds you more of a dank, soggy piece of toast than a triumphant three tiered cake (yep, I love to eat!).
So I’m working to slow down. I’m working to align my priorities with my actions (and vice versa— shoot I just googled that phrase, did you know it’s latin? I’m NOT doing the slow down and focus thing well now! But I’m working on it).
WHEN I do slow down in writing, my stories are better. My plots have arcs or alternative courses. My characters have more meat.
WHEN I do slow down in life, I feel better. My kids feel better. The important things get done (sorry, dishes). I can notice and enjoy the shadows, even as they are getting longer.
Here is one tiny way in which I’m trying to train myself, and my kids, to take life just a beat slower (The idea/tip you’ve been waiting for!): When we pull up to the house and the radio is on, we don’t shut off the car and rush in. We stay, relax, and enjoy the song to the end. We let it conclude, we don’t rush it. Then we go in. Then we move on.
I have no idea if this makes a world of difference but I will tell you it feels different, we feel different when we do it.
What about you? What are your slowing down tips and techniques? Please share. Goodness knows I need more.
P.S. This is, in fact, the universal premier of the word ‘yech’ used with this meaning. Mark that down, Internet. See you soon, Webster’s!
P.P.S. Please don’t tell my kiddos that sitting in the car and listening to music is a “lesson” of any kind. They love it. Don’t spill the beans and spoil it! Thanks.