I had planned to spend this day writing. I had four items on my “To-do” list: litter, lights, laundry, write. I needed to clean the four litter boxes it takes to keep my three cats happy. I wanted to string white lights around my meditation room in order to have more light when reading prayers before sunrise and after sunset. I needed to do laundry – there isn’t much, but it doesn’t hurt to stay on top of it.
And I wanted to write. I am applying for a chaplaincy program that begins next fall and requires five brief essays about life, spirituality, work, and relationships. No problem. I’ve written this stuff so many times over the past four years I can recite my life history on cue. I should be able to complete all five essays in one day with time leftover to watch a movie, play with the cats, and complete the other items on my “To-do” list.
But, today has slipped away from me like so many other days. I don’t know how it happens. I wake up with great intentions and great motivation. I catch-up on emails, I eat a good breakfast, I bathe and make myself presentable for the day. This morning I actually did clean the litter boxes. The day stretches out before me and I think “Oh, I have time for writing later. I can relax for a little bit. Watch some television, pay some bills, make a few phone calls.” And before I know it my day is gone and I haven’t written a word.
I don’t know how to discipline myself to the page and I do not know how to structure my day. When I began graduate school I made the decision not to work. I wanted to devote all of my time to my education. I knew it would be research and writing intensive and I wanted wide-open days where I could luxuriate in writing. That is how I imagined these four years unfolding. That, however, has not been the reality.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I do love to write. I would not write to you here if I did not. I keep a journal that I write in everyday without fail. I can sit with my pen to the page all day if all I need to write is “Breakfast is good. I ate some bacon and some hashbrowns. I think I’ll do some laundry today and oh it would be so lovely to have white lights in my meditation room. I’m going to work tonight. The term has started. I’m worried about thesis. I wonder how I’ll ever finish on time. But, I will. I must. Dear, God, please please please help me focus.” I can wax on like this for an eternity. But, when it comes to writing the actual thesis or the application essays my pen stops. I freeze. And all that space in my day starts to scare me.
Something about writing when I “have to” stops me cold. Something about no structure in the day gives my mind too much space for fear. I’ve tried to impose structure on my open days, but it doesn’t work. I have nothing to hold me accountable. What I need is a writing buddy. Or two or three. A person or persons who are gentle and kind and who know how much work it is to discipline oneself to the page.
I must also remember to be gentle with myself, remember that discipline is equal to practice, and that relaxing into the act of writing might also help me remember why I love it.