“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – F. Bueller
When last I left you, my Muse was teasing me with snippets and hints. In my last post, I warned you that she was less than cooperative, and that I would try to tempt her. My best laid plans, as always, failed. Most of March didn’t grant me the time I wanted to be a beach bum. But I did manage to call down the Muse! She came and then left. And now, I finally know what she really wanted all along.
Ferris Bueller’s iconic words still ring true. Life does move fast – faster all the time.
I’m the girl who loved lying in the summer sun, watching the grass grow as pool water dried from my skin listening to the bees buzz through the dandelions. How does a girl like that cope with progress?
With difficulty it seems.
I’ve unofficially dubbed this the Age of the Gamer. I don’t think I’ll get much argument on that score. Nerds have risen to power and it’s become a world where there’s a “life hack” to “level up” anything. To be better, to do better. Five traits of highly efficient people. Ten foods to avoid. Four hacks for a better life. Eleven tips to maximize your time.
Now, I love nerds, I really do. But I can no longer count myself among them because I don’t want to do everything in my life like I’m trying to take down the Lich King. World of Warcraft has bridged the gap between the nerds and other achievers based in part on a very strong psychological setup to keep you working, grinding, for your goal. And I just don’t want to do that all the time.
If this sounds like a rant against improving oneself, it’s not.
If it sounds like I’m a lazy ass, – well, maybe. But isn’t it possible there are still a few souls on earth who aren’t comfortable with, or perhaps aren’t good at, living like it’s a never-ending foot race.
I love the gym, but if I go regularly I feel the need to start spending hours on what I eat, making my own organically grown, ecologically responsible food, tracking how much weight I can lift, how fast I can do a 5K and it needs to be better than yesterday. It gets all-consuming. If I don’t do that, I fall behind. We all have limited time but I am amazed at how much other people can get done in a day. You see, organization and I have never been on a first name basis.
What does this have to do with writing?
Well, writing advice recommends similar due diligence. Make sure you put in 1000 words a day, an hour a day, write something, write anything, be disciplined. Carve out time. Sounds aggressive. Sounds like leveling up.
My Muse, however, is a resonant extension of myself. Right? I knew she liked long ambling walks in the park, hours at the stable enjoying the scent of hay and leather, and watching the grass grow. But what I didn’t realize was that she hated restrictions as much as I do. Endings bug her, and not the story kind.
After the last post, I was busy until the last week in March when work was dwindling and the kids were home for spring break. For a few blissful days, I would wake up and not bother to get out of bed. And when you wake up at 5 a.m., you can laze for literally hours. I wasn’t specifically making time for the Muse. I was just being lazy. I let my mind float and wander. It was luxurious decadence for someone who’s spent the last ten years being chief cook and bottle washer. Get up, get it done, go-go-go.
After one morning of blissful empty time, she came back full force. We were one again. I was in the flow and full of energy, downloading story points and words. I got a lot done before real life intruded again. I felt more motivated and connected to my writing than I had in a long time. I was deliriously happy.
And when she left, it taught me something I never noticed before. As a single mom, I live in my left brain all the time. Making lists, checking things off. When I do get downtime, I fill it with more lists because there is always more to do. I was putting off the Muse until the list was completely done, or I was limiting what time I was available for her. My writing suffered.
Note to self: Lists are anathema to my Muse even when she’s on them. Did I mention she’s like me – difficult.
So leveling up/carving out/scheduling doesn’t help me much. I’m not saying it’s wrong. I’m envious of those it works for. I wish it worked for me. But it doesn’t. I don’t just follow a different drummer, I don’t follow any drummer. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s a pied piper the gets my feet to tap. Anyway, what my Muse needed was more time and it couldn’t be scheduled better-get-here-by-5 p.m.-because-then-I-need-to-make-dinner time. She wanted free time, no-strings-attached time.
And that is hard to come by. But now I know. If I want to feel connected to my story, I have to stop striving and just sit and think and daydream. Put away the phone and the clock. Zone out. It seems I can’t have the left and right brains on at the same time and I don’t think there’s a hack to fix that programming in my ancient OS.
And I’m okay with that. When life is busy, I can still carve out an hour and get the Morse code version of the story. And when I get the time, I can step back, go down the rabbit hole and channel the story. Hey, at least, I have choices.
What’s your best “life hack”? What puts you in the flow? I’d love to know.
WOW Screenshot of my draenei shaman, Gommrah. Photo: My dog Kirby. Please do not use without permission.