I’ve been quiet for the past week; I know, I know—not like me. I’m still dealing with the bad shoulder injury, which makes typing difficult, and I’ve also simply taken a few days off from working at all simply to get myself centered once again. I’m no good to anyone—my readers, my editing clients, my family, or myself—when I get out of balance.
Balance. That’s a tough thing to maintain when you’re a writer, isn’t it? I know very few who are able to write full time. Most have day jobs, either in an office or as full-time parents. Many are both. By the time their work day is done and the little ones are tucked in bed, they may have been on their feet sixteen hours or more, and yet they sit down at their computers, put fingers to keyboard, and write.
It’s been a long time since I had little ones to tuck in; my “baby” is twenty-one years old. And I can’t blame an eight-to-five job for wearing me out, either. While I often work long hours (most of you know that I freelance, both as an editor and as a writing coach), when a job comes in, I work as many hours as it takes to do it right. It really isn’t any different from a full-time job other than the fact I can elect to decline a project or client if I choose to do so.
So how does a writer like me get out of balance? I can choose my hours, choose where and what to edit, who to coach, what to write. What do I have to complain about?
My friend Malcolm R. Campbell wrote a wonderful blog the other day where he talked about writing being a spiritual pursuit. “Yes, first we must breathe, eat, and make sure we still have a pulse, but then we move our histories and our consciousness out into the world on the wings of written stories carried on sacred words,” he writes. “When we tell a story … the words themselves are like a prayer or an invocation or a hymn or a spell that creates something so much larger and grander than the screen or the sheet or paper where the words appear.”
I realized, reading Malcolm’s blog, that this was exactly the source of my recent ennui. It wasn’t that I was having seizures again for the first time in fifteen years. It wasn’t that I had fallen and injured my shoulder so badly. It was that, for me, words had lost their sacredness. Not just the words I had written. The words I read, the words I edited, were no longer special. They were nothing more than shaped concrete on a barren plain.
So I took a few days off to rediscover the sacred. Not just in words, but in life itself. And, as always happens when I do this, I did not have to look far.
We (and by we, I mean Scott and I) bought a new hummingbird feeder for Bully Boy, the little Allen’s hummingbird who lives in our back yard and refuses to share. Bully Boy once made me very frustrated, because he chased off the clouds of hummingbirds that once graced our feeder. But I have come to love him for his fierceness in protecting what he sees as his private domain. How can you not love a bird who is only two inches long but has the personality of a lion?
We planted a succulent garden at the edge of our deck while scrub jays and acorn woodpeckers argued on the hill above us. We walked out beneath the waning moon to listen to at least half a dozen great-horned owls call to one another from the branches of the old-growth scrub oaks that forest our hill, and we tried to imagine what they were saying to one another.
And in that simple act—in the conversation with my husband where we tried to interpret the owl’s calls to one another, I rediscovered the sacred. Bully Boy certainly has a language all his own; other, larger hummingbirds take off like rocket ships when he catches them near his feeder. It didn’t take much imagination to know the acorn woodpeckers and scrub jays were arguing over the choice acorns growing in the grandmother scrub oak in which they fought.
But the owls! Oh, the owls! Soft hoots from the blackness of the night sky, calling to one another, singing their owl song (even if that song was only one note). This was magic. This was sacred. And so were Bully Boy’s fusses and the cacophony of the woodpeckers and jays.
This morning, my ennui is gone. I am alternating editing articles with writing scenes for my Work in Progress. I can hear Bully Boy fussing out back, chasing intruders from his feeder. I know the owls are tucked up in the branches of the oaks, unseen and silent, waiting for darkness to return.
This is the source of all that is sacred. This is the source of my words.