Inertia Sunday

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There should be art for all occasions. Sometimes we want to laugh, sometimes we want to be entertained, sometimes we want to cry, sometimes we need to be challenged.

What I’ve enjoyed about this experience in France is being given something to do, an assignment, a commission. It gives me purpose and direction. In my usual writing life, I am the sole source of my purpose and direction. I have to propel myself toward something no one else can see and when the work is done I have to convince people to care. It takes a lot energy. The pleasure of this commission is that I’ve been asked to do something, and I’m doing it, to the best of my abilities. It’s up to the Festival to convince people to care about what I’m making, just as they invented the goal. It takes so much weight off.

My sense, as I’ve worked, is of being at play, in a playful and free state of mind, digging in, like a child with a wad of modelling clay having just been told: go ahead and get messy!

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When I am busy and rushing around, I imagine that what I want is to be still, to do nothing. But here I am, today, with nothing pressing to do, well-rested, in a state of quiet and relaxation, and it is almost as if I’ve come to a stop and can’t begin again. The idea that we will get to do whatever we want in our state of needing-to-do-nothing ignores that it is a state that requires some force to exit. I think I sense this in my every day life, that it is easier to keep going than to stop and recalibrate. Now is my chance to recalibrate, now that I am at a stop, and it’s up to me to decide what that means.

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Today, I went for a run on the trail by the river where I’ve been walking almost every day. What a good choice it was to run, as I knew it would be. The air was sweet, the wind was cool, it was sunny, I got a good sweat going, I made myself work on some stretches and let myself go easier on others. I heard songbirds, and saw the green popping out faintly on the trees, and my thoughts came calmly and clearly.

I thought about doing rather than thinking. How important it is to do. To do is to be. I’m proudest of myself and most satisfied with my life when I am active, involved, taking risks, in the public space, using my body, along with my mind. My idlest and least productive times have been when I’ve had “all the time in the world,” or “nothing but time.” During those seasons (winter, age 19; fall, age 23), I tried to write and produced nothing; more nothing than at any other time in my life. For example, as soon as I got a job, age 24, I started to write again. Another example: I started to write Hair Hat as soon as I’d given birth to my eldest, but not during the months of relative idleness before. That says to me something quite profound: that my being a writer is not dependent on having grand expanses of free time. It may even be dependent on the opposite, on being squeezed for time because life is so interesting and full, and I’m doing so much, and then in reverence and thanks can I come to a quiet space and write, in a way that feels crucial, important, necessary. If I could go around the planet working on commissions like this, I would; but this is unique, this is grace.

Something came to me while I was running — running past a ramshackle farmhouse with a red attic door and orange brick outbuildings, running past a field of bright yellow blooms, running under a row of fat-trunked trees with bird-shit splattered on the pavement below them — I thought, in order to write I must have something to say, and I’ll only have something to say if I have something to do.

I need to do.

If I want to be the writer that I want to be, I need to do more … but what? … than write.

xo, Carrie

The mystery of it
Settle in, it's a long post

4 Comments

  1. I’m coming out of the woodwork :). I’ve been reading your posts for a few months now (I’m moving to Canada in June so searched for some local blogs) and I’m always eager to read your posts when they pop up. This one has struck a chord with me- I’m beginning to write my first novel that I’ve been planning for the last 15 months. When did I start planning? Just after my third child was born. When do I most want to write? Now, when we’re renovating and preparing for an international move. Sometimes I dream about how much I would get done with a little peace and quiet, or think ‘I should do this when the kids are grown’ but then I realise my natural tendency to inertia. My life has never been so full and that is the key to my inspiration- thanks for putting it in words for me!

    Reply
    • Thanks for your response, Chelsea! I wish you many stolen moments of writing bliss as you prepare for your move to Canada.

      Reply
  2. Carrie:

    Perhaps the “doing” you speak of is simply living your life under whatever terms and conditions are before you. I guess what I’m trying to say is to live as a writer and write accordingly, one has to simply live. As a musician, I will sometimes ask my students to “play their day” or an aspect of their life. It’s quite remarkable what I hear.
    But I would also caution against being too busy, too activity centred, so as to hermetically seal your “life”, from your writing. I think of a cautionary phrase that was uttered to an overly active pastor friend of mine: “Beware of the barrenness of a busy life.”

    I hope this makes sense and doesn’t seem condescending. There are plenty of “mirrors” in my own life to remind me of what I speak of….

    Enjoy your remaining time in France…

    I hope to make the outing in May…

    Chris

    Reply
  3. Big thoughts Carrie/
    I worried, for years, that I wasn’t doing enough in my own life to give me things to write about. You said this best.
    Something for me to ponder.
    Enjoy running and your lump of clay.
    🙂

    Reply

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