My Creative Dilemma: Push Ahead or Yield?

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Cluttered desk, cluttered mind

If I only push harder, I’ll catch a tailwind and launch my book. This month it will be finished, I said in August. I said it again in September. Burn those engines on high heat and surge forward. Push this baby into the world. Hurry.

My book project rules my life. Morning meditation has become a sit on the cushion and make a task list exercise, but surely that will improve once I clearly articulate my characters. My walks have become willful exercise rather than communion with nature. Oh, that will change once the marketing plan is complete. I’m not sleeping well, but surely the remedy is a smoother narrative arc. Don’t let up. Foot on the pedal.

A week ago, a close friend was diagnosed with cancer. OK, I can work through this, too, I thought, but her small tumor blocked my path. The brakes screeched and smelled of hot rubber. What the hell are you doing? Cancer scowled. Why do you live in a knot of self-imposed mania? Don’t you remember this life is a gift? Don’t you remember that the gift disappears before you’re ready?

Shagbark Hickory

But once I get my book baby on the road, the pressure will ease, I argue. Of course, I know better. Will life be quieter when I get my first rejections or even an acceptance? Will a reading or two or a book tour bring me inner peace? I spend my days writing about mortality and still forget the lessons. I laugh when I remember what Vic said about me: “They’ll write on your tombstone: She tried really hard.”

Yesterday, I took my foot off the pedal and let the engines cool. I ignored my book, thinned young lettuces, and chewed tender leaves. I took my dog Willow and my tense body for an evening walk and let the yellow shagbarks and red maples soothe me. I paused in my front yard to inhale the sweet scent of Angel’s Trumpets.  I loosened my grip on frantic expectation for a future that might never come and gulped the green moisture of life.

More than hours of editing and better marketing ideas, my book needs my quiet feminine voice. It needs a heart that cherishes love and knows the lessons of loss. Don’t let frantic effort drown the Soul’s whisper, I tell myself. Instead, listen to the heart’s soft insistent questions: What do I want to say? Will my words help others survive loss? How can I help myself thrive?

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Are you pushing your way through something? Can you slow the pace and let it take its own time? You might enjoy other blogs about the lessons I learn from my land: Coming Home, Small Goodbyes, or My Mysterious Home.

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12 Comments
  1. Elaine, your writing never fails to touch my heart and sometimes brings me a moment of insight into myself as well. Thank you for sharing your voice. Please don’t stop writing.

    Pauline

  2. It’s always the dilemma – the will/surrender – push/let go. Childbirth was my biggest teacher in letting go. I could not will anything while in the throes of that universal energy. Prepping for it did involve some will. Hmmmm. Birthing a book probably has some of the same needs. Know this, my friend, you are an incredible writer – manifesting those unknown, ephemeral ideas and feelings here on this earth plane. A real gift.

    • Wow, Pat. Childbirth is a perfect image to remember. I was good at birthing babies, as were you. Thanks for the reminder, affirmation, and encouragement.

  3. So happy to read your words again, and feel your wisdom. You mix what is mundane with what is profound in such an easy, relaxed and concise manner. In this brief piece we experience your chaos, the wake up call, your listening and your action.
    It may be this, your listening, that had always impressed me.
    Whether it is in something that Nature shows you or the voice of an internal character, or as in this story the Cancer of a friend, you listen. And here you give it voice for us all to read.
    I agree with Pauline, keep it up, you offer a beautiful window for all to look through.

    • I smile as you reflect back to me that I am a listener because I struggle with hearing loss. Perhaps deafness makes me focus more as I read lips or situate myself in the best hearing spot while walking next to a friend or sitting at a table with family. I lean forward to hear each word, sometimes asking for sentences to be repeated. I strain to catch the details coming from others, from Nature, and from within myself–and because I can’t take hearing for granted, I cherish all of it. I especially cherish your words because you listen and watch so well.

  4. Elaine, I have experienced the same rush of ideas and plans while trying to meditate or walk in the woods. You put it so beautifully. When will we stop and live the lessons that we’ve learned through loss and grief?

    • Lynne, it seems I have to learn this lesson again and again. It helps to articulate it through writing, but I’m sure I’ll forget again. Remind me, OK?

  5. The reason I follow blogs of writers is that they so often ~ as you do ~ well-articulate an experience I’ve had. It’s easy to say that something will happen in *perfect* time (because it does and will) but perhaps this dichotomy is useful, too: “Everything matters; nothing matters.” I heard Rev. Dinwiddie use that in a sermon, Chicago 1979… Sometimes remembering this takes the (self-imposed) pressure off … Blessings your way, Lynne

    • Thanks, Lynne. Yup, my ego always thinks it knows how to control the situation. I wish my insights were permanent, but I have to fight away my pushy critic repeatedly. I appreciate the things you share at your bog. I’m trying to subscribe, but need guidance because I’m not familiar with your particular system. You may have run into this before. My email is elaine@elainemansfield.com and I like to keep all writer’s business at this account. I don’t get anywhere when I give my email address to your system. I have other accounts, but rarely use them for the sake of order.

  6. This is beautiful, Elaine. I enjoyed it very much. Keep shining your light!

    • Thanks, Bella. Lauren Cottrell suggested your last post because of the resonances with your thoughts. I usually write about bereavement issues, and this a kind of grief–losing my self-love and self-care in the rush of goal-oriented work. So for the sake of spiritual balance, I’m out the door with my dog Willow to walk my trails and soak in autumn color.

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