Brian said (admiringly, I thought), “Did you write that story?” I started to answer, when he continued, “Or did you type it?” — Annie Dillard in The Writing Life
It’s 10:41am, and if anyone looked at me, here in my pink and gray-striped pj bottoms and my morning hair – it would look like I was frittering away my day. . . . Facebook is open as is my email, a chat window, Twitter, and the slowly-filling page of this blog.
From the outside (and from inside my own head many days), it’s easy to see this life as frivolous, full of mindless distractions and empty status updates. It can seem like the only real work I do in a day involves writing nonsense for approximately 45 minutes and doing the pile of dishes on the upstairs counter. I have to fight hard to not believe that idea for too long; it can really knock me to the recliner and America’s Next Top Model marathons very quickly.
The truth is that all of this is my work. Even as I answer emails and read about people’s beach vacations, even as I chat away on IM and post random pages on Facebook, I am thinking about words. I am trying to see that sparkly idea that has the depth of an underwater tunnel, and I am trying to find that one minute when the tide is just right for me to swim in.
Sometimes it’s so easy for me to think that the important question really is – “Did I write it or did I type it?” as Brian so eloquently asked the amazing Annie Dillard, as if this distinction is important in some significant way. In my mind this question becomes, Did I really do anything today, or did I just think I did?
Maybe that’s why so many writers seek publication, because it shows them (not to mention everyone else) that they really did something with all those days, that they have a product to display.
I can buy into the idea of work as production very easily. I need to do more, write more, produce more. I know – with a part of me that goes beyond my cultural upbringing – that writing (and I’d even go so far as to say “work” in general) isn’t all about work and efficiency and product. It’s about play and inquiry and meditation . . . it’s about trying one path and then backtracking because you decided you wanted to try another. It’s about floating in the warm ocean water until just that right moment when you dive into the tunnel that will take you somewhere more blue and dangerous than you ever imagined. That’s the writing life.
At the end of the day, when my 1,000 words or more are on the page, when my blog is posted, when I have read essays and articles that tingled, I lay down to sleep with the peace I had as a child. I have lived this day as I was meant to live it. There is still pain; there is still great joy. But I have done what I have been asked to do, and that is enough.