No, Really. I went hiking in Southern Arizona. See…
It was beautiful. Really freaking beautiful. Every step was a joy. Even the hard ones.
But here I am again. And believe me, I hesitated about coming back. Not from hiking. Back to the joy inquiry. Why? Well, because I said I was going to do it every day. So of course when I didn’t, I immediately thought, “Well, you fucked up. You can’t keep a commitment. You are SUCH a flaky loser writer.”
Wow, harsh, eh? No one can’t beat me up like I can beat me up.
And no one can get up but me. So in the face of all that beating myself up, I start again. Things happen. Life twists and turns. We have to let things go slack for a while while we pick something else up. The point is to pick it back up if it’s important. This inquiry is important.
If only to stop the beating up of my dear, sweet self and live more joyfully every day.
Today this gorgeous song came on my play list.
When it ended, I flipped to Joni Mitchell’s first recording of this song.
So many years difference in between. I loved the first recording. The haunting purity of her voice. That voice spoke to all the innocence and yearning inside me when I was a young adult. I was on the precipice of so much. That voice carried me and kept me balanced on the high wire, crossing into adulthood while hanging onto myself.
But this more recent version…Oh my, the seasoning in her voice. The depth of musicality. How she knows her voice now. How she lets it dance with all the other instruments. How sure she is of her own.
Sometimes I worry about getting older. Aging out. Becoming irrelevant. But when I listen to her older voice, I stop worrying. Maybe we can’t hit all the high notes the way we used to but, it doesn’t matter. The notes now are deeper. Life is so much richer on this side of the wire.
yesterday, I noticed this conversation in my head.
Me: This is a sweet scene.
Me: Yeah, I’m kinda getting to know my characters.
Me: If you knew them better, this scene would really be good.
Me: Hey this is a first draft.
Me: Yeah, well, if you knew them better, you’d be certain this scene would make it to the second draft.
Me: Omigod, shut up.
Me: You don’t even know where this scene is going in the book.
Me: Near the end.
Me: Maybe. If you’re lucky.
Me: Would you knock it off. This is a first draft. Even if this scene is not in the book, it’s helping me get to know the characters AND the story better.
Me: Well, I hope this scene makes it to the second draft. If if does then you won’t have wasted your time today.
Sensing my brain writing even while I am not.
Laughing with an acquaintance. Really laughing & feeling something shift between us.
Working out and noticing that my 3 lb. dumbbell tricep curls have become 12 lb. curls.
Noticing how peacefully my cat is sleeping at the end of my bed in the sunlight.
Watching a perfect movie.
Fixing my front door (so it locks) by myself.
Trying a new yoga practice and feeling eager for the next lesson.
Eating a combination of leftovers from the fridge and they taste delicious.
Seeing the sun glow behind the morning fog.
Getting a card from a dear friend and knowing they were thinking of me with each word.
Receiving twelve emails from women wanting to be in my class.
Being alive right now.
I am writing this post because I believe that if I want to re-pattern my neural pathways, if I want to access more joy in my writing then one of the ways I can do it is to notice more joy, more effortless joy every day, every hour, every minute.
So it went well yesterday. I read all the pages of the new middle grade and it’s not only pretty good, it’s also not far from being a complete first draft. I dug into the syllabus and powerpoint for my Austin Community College Writing Children’s Literature class and made notes about next steps. Oddly, the class feels like it needs more big picture thinking and heavy lifting than the manuscript but working on both feels symbiotic.
Now it’s Monday. The beginning of the work week. Get busy. Get going. Go.
Instead, I’m thinking about hiking. Driving to the trail head. Slipping the route map to the peak in my pocket. Heading out, step by step. In a way, there is no magic in hiking. It’s one step after the other. To the top. If it’s a good route, there are panoramas along the way, shady places to breathe (or pant), maybe even some cool water. These are the places to stop and revel in the journey and the progress. And then it’s back to the step by step going. Until the end.
Yeah, I’m thinking about hiking.
I’m driving to the trailhead. I know the route.
*This title is a nod to Arthur Levine’s fine picture book about a child waiting patiently for the weekend when he will be with his parents uninterrupted by the work day.