The edges of the farmyard are growing up in the red, prickly stems of blackberries and the juicy stalks of weeds that, when I was younger, I thought were marijuana. Plus, the grass is almost 6 inches high.
I’ve been away for a week, and the yard shows my lack of attention to it.
But not as much as my writing. I have not had a regular writing routine for almost a month now. Instead, I made a conscious choice to put my energy into the American Cancer Society Relay For Life, and we raised over $105,000 for the fight against cancer. But my writing suffered, as it always does when I don’t attend to it daily.
I haven’t even maintained a writing practice, and so, like my lawn, even the heart of my writing has grown wild. And new projects – they sit as untouched as P and I’s plans to clear the meadow on the mountain before the wedding. There are consequences for my choice to walk away for a bit.
Did I make a good choice? In many ways, yes. I was much less stressed as I worked on Relay, and I was able to give some of my free time to working with an amazing group of volunteers to come up with even more awesome ideas to raise money and bring our community together.
But even the best of choices have consequences, and now I must face these. Now, before I can begin this new project I feel bubbling, I have to do some maintenance. I have to mow down the cliches that plague popular spoken English since I have been hearing that more than I have the shaped words of writing. I have to chop back the stalks of cultural disparagement that tell me that writing is a waste of time. I have to fling myself into getting back to where I was, even before I can begin something new.
I haven’t lost all my ground, of course – maintenance is always easier than starting fresh – but I have lost something, and that something is not just time. I miss the way that writing feels like burrowing and flying at the same moment, the focus that is required to find what is right behind my own skin. I miss the contentment and peace that settles like a soft blanket when I have done my most important work of the day.
So today, I start back to my daily practice of two hours or 1,000 words, whichever comes first. Today, I begin to regain the ground I had under my feet a month ago. Soon, I begin anew, too.
Today, I remember the most practical thing I’ve ever learned about writing – it’s a practice, a daily one that builds and accumulates like sand dunes and one that can erode just as quickly.
Today, I begin again, and when I am done, the pleasure of having done it will be mirrored only by the sweetness of the grass-laden air when I hop on Vulcan and mow our way to stillness again.
What do you find happens when you step away from your writing for too long?