For once in my thirty years, I want to truly learn how to be unproductive, idle, lazy, contemplative. Why? Because it is essential to my spirit. And it is my spirit that inspires me to write. And it is becoming ever more clear to me that writing is life, that creative expression is why I am here.
I grew up like too many Americans do: with that most awful nasty concept---duty---pumped into my veins like a bad drug. And now it's beyond addiction, it's as though the need to produce and accomplish is wired into my body on a cellular level. If I don't do enough every day, I start to feel anxious, nervous, dare I even admit it, worthless.
The irony is that I absolutely love nearly all that I fill up my days with: I love teaching, love crafting an exciting new writing prompt, love planning a history lecture on Turkey's revolution, love reading, love riding my bike, love exercising my limbs, love cooking, love going to the library, love spilling my guts to my therapist, love learning new songs on the piano, love noodling around on my lap-top, love courting ideas onto the page, love taking a long hot shower at the end of the day. The problem is that my sense of duty often smothers the inherent fun out of these things, turns them into shoulds and musts and have-tos, until my poor spirit keels over with nervous dread. The problem is that I hold impossible expectations for myself, raising the bar so damn high that I fail to even notice the sky.
It's time to relax. In fact, at this very moment, I am supposed to be at a benefit, wearing a fancy dress and an enthusiastic smile. And up until two hours ago I was going to drag myself there, despite my fatigue and guts urging me otherwise. But thanks to that nurturing impulse that beats louder by the day (and thanks to my sweet love who encourages me to chill), I stayed home, curled up on the couch, and read fifty pages of Brenda Ueland's "If You Want to Write."
And like magic, like double sixes to win the back gammon game, like a fat yellow moon, like a warm California night, like a forgotten melody from childhood, she spoke right to me, across years and miles and impossibilities, she had this to say to me:
"Do not feel, any more, guilty about idleness and solitude."
"For what we write today slipped into our souls some other day when we were alone and doing nothing."