This is the first time in about a week that I’ve felt human. This bad cold was, I suppose, my reward for making it all the way through winter without so much as a sniffle. I rested much of the week in bed, easily tired, enduring the congestion and the coughing. I had an appetite but only enough energy for reading and streaming Netflix. Pushing myself in that state would not have been wise.
My writing has been on pause as things settle and come back to a place of normalcy.
It is strange how quickly I fall out of creative alignment, how easily I forget my habits – no matter what the excuse is. Once I get on the Netflix binge train, it takes a lot of willpower to jump off. It is, after all, the opposite of what I’m naturally inclined to be doing: consuming rather than creating.
And then came April 1st, when the cold was finally abating… when I realized that Netflix dropped the one show I’d been watching for the last few weeks: M*A*S*H. Of course. I wasted a great deal of time (time that could have been spent getting my writing in order) getting angry at Netflix, getting angry at the fact that other streaming services don’t seem to have M*A*S*H in their catalogue (I mean, we’re talking famous, Emmy-winning, 11 years running M*A*S*H here), and getting even angrier at myself for not wanting to watch anything else. Or do anything else. And then it was time to go to bed.
Oh, I thought. I don’t like this.
So it had happened. From Friday to Friday, through Easter, no less – I’d drifted away. I’d gone back to old habits. I think the creative mindset, the will to be disciplined and to sit down to the page for 2 hours every day, is a difficult skill. There will a struggle to maintain it. There will be relapses. Self-discipline only “stays” with practice, with a framework.
Here’s an illustration. I had braces caging my teeth until my freshman year of high school. But the orthodontia work wasn’t done when the metal was plucked off and my teeth were released from their three year long prison. I had to wear a retainer (two, in fact) periodically to keep my teeth from sliding back into the formation in which they originally grew. I’m sure everyone who has braces scoffed at this. Retainers aren’t sexy. They make me drool. They hurt. But without them – and I know because I’ve gone years between wearing them – the teeth do indeed shift around… back to where they came from.
My creative habits are like those newly aligned teeth. If there isn’t a retainer put in place once in a while, they will shift. They will get crooked and inconsistent. If left alone for too long, the bite could start to get off. It would be as if I hadn’t braces at all.
I’m not flogging myself for an unproductive week. I’m glad I’d written 9,000 words. And there is some good to leaving the novel to sit for a while: I was able to rest on some little plot snags and word-knots that had been bothering me. And I’ll return to them with a clear head and sense of direction.
Have I lost ground? Maybe. So what can I do? Simple: start again. Persistence is key, they say, persistence leads to perseverance in the fullness of time. It’s a stark, simple method. It’s not gold-gilded or flashy, but it works.
Get up, start again. Everyday. Routines and habits can be made whole again.