The Value of Doing Nothing

I have sat down to write multiple times this week to no avail. I’m just spinning my wheels. Maybe I’m just distracted by the gifts in the closet that are one game of hide-and-seek away from being discovered. Maybe it’s the sudden smack of brutal cold temperatures. The drafts snaking under the 100 year old front door and window casings make sitting long enough to type anything a test of endurance. Or maybe it’s the stare of that deformed limbed thing in the corner which is masquerading as a Christmas tree – this year’s answer to the justification question of buying a cut-off-at-the-knees tree for the price of a cart of groceries.

Yup, that’s my excuse and I’m stickin’ to it.

As of 3:30PM today the Christmas break begins and unless I shove the kids off to Grandma’s there will be no work happening here until January. I keep saying to myself, no one is MAKING you write your blog or Examiner.com articles. Give yourself a break! But here’s the thing: I’m here at home not earning a penny, a penny that might have gone towards a tree that doesn’t look like something out of The Nightmare Before Christmas. I feel a certain responsibility to do what I am here to do – write, even if there are no pennies rolling my way for doing it… yet.

It’s hard for me to sit still. I don’t mean physically sit still because that I’m great at! What I mean is, I always feel compelled to be doing something constructive. I put these expectations on myself. Hardly anyone reads this blog but if I go a few days without posting something I start hearing my inner boss-lady clearing her throat. My Examiner articles are earning me literally pennies a day and I wonder on a daily basis if it is worth my time. But then my ambitious student-self who insisted on pursuing an Honors degree instead of just a plain ol’ BA reminds me I should not give up on something that could be helpful in the future, and more importantly, helpful to others. An essay written for a contest was almost abandoned also as I weighed the chances of actually winning. But finish and submit it I did because I am a writer and that is what writers do, win or not!

What I have a hard time remembering is that sometimes it is the spaces in between work that prompt true inspiration. It will be in those moments when I am sitting still (or with journal in hand), when the brain is turned off that the magic will happen.

Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.

Alan Alexander Milne (1882 – 1956)
Source: Pooh’s Little Instruction Book, inspired by A. A. Milne

All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness.

I have to to give myself to permission to stop.

Calm your brain. Meditate. Doodle in your journal. Pet the cat. Take a shower. Mindless tasks can have the same effect. Even folding laundry or mopping the floor, if done without the pressure of a time limit or while thinking of all the other things you have to do, can de-stress and re-inspire you.

So, if you don’t hear from me for a while just know I am getting re-inspired by doing absolutely nothing! Ahhhh!

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5 thoughts on “The Value of Doing Nothing

  1. Joanna,

    I just thought of something, a great Christmas gift to yourself if it’s not too late: Have you read “The Writer’s Desk”? It’s actually a book of famous writers at work, by Jill Krementz. Each picture, in black-and-white, comes with a quote about the working style of the writer in the photo.

    My stepmother bought me the book years ago to inspire me to write and every time I look at it, it makes me feel like I have some connection to Real Writers (people who write for a living, not a pittance).

    Just a suggestion. I totally hear where you’re coming from, but I’ve found that writing on deadline is a HUGE motivator!

    Merry Christmas!

    • I’ll have to find that book. I’m not familiar with it but it sounds great. I definitely like deadlines (have a really big one coming up for Mothering magazine – they accepted my query and now I’m freaking out that I have to write a good enough essay!) but my everyday stuff – blog and examiner – is harder. Actually, I usually use my blog as a way to procrastinate because it is no pressure writing and I really enjoy it – usually. Some days though…

      Merry Christmas to you too!

  2. I once attended a reading and QA session with the writer/poet Mary Karr. She professed to write in chunks, sometimes not writing at all and other times digging in deep. I found great comfort in that. I think a lot of writers are going around saying they write every day, but I think they are fibbing to us. It’s become the ‘in’ thing for writers to say. ‘You should write every day.’ I’m an artist and I don’t draw every day. I’m a writer and I don’t write every day. If I did, I’d probably hate it. I believe in discipline and goals, but not in self-torture. We all have to find the way that works best for us.

  3. Pingback: Looking for rhythm « wisdom within, ink

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