An Untitled Essay on Writing and Wickedness

I’m tired.

Exhausted, actually. Mentally, and physically tired.

I have seven essays drafted on writing, things that I am processing as I push through the TALKING about writing so I may actually get to the business of DOING the writing. But my brain is so mushified that all I can bring myself to do at this moment is stare at the wall and cry.

Writing is healing, and when I don’t have time to write I die a little inside.

I don’t know how to find the time to fit this into my life. I read blogs of other writers who have one day a week devoted to writing, or several afternoons a week. Of this I am jealous, as I have to squeeze my writing in during an episode or two of Dora the Explorer on most days.

I used to write in the evenings when the house is quiet, but lately I’ve been so behind on basic household chores I’ve found myself vacuuming, or folding laundry, or picking up clutter. And by the time I finish doing this I am too tired to think of anything to write that requires me to dig deep.

I’ve been contemplating routine again. I’ve said this before, but I phase in and out of the scheduled life. In the past, meal planning and scheduled shopping and cleaning days were empowering, but there came a point when even my basic hygienic duties were being neglected so I began doing just The Next Thing.

Today I was talking with a friend who also struggles with depression. She has come to the conviction that time can not stand still every time she is in a season of depression. She must find a way to push through and keep her household running. I understand this, but I do not understand how to execute.

In some ways I believe routine would remove the need to think so much. I would simply go to the grocery store on Monday, clean the house on Wednesday, etc. But in some ways I also find routine stressful. Time slots fill in quickly with Shoulds and Musts and I begin to see a dense forest rather than a peaceful meadow. Eventually I end up spending an entire day in my pajamas because I just can’t bear the thought of DOING something anymore.

But routine might open up the space to write. Wide open meadow-like space rather than disjointed and multitasking moments that make my brain feel like a fragmented hard drive. Perhaps that’s it: I need to defrag my life.

Bryan and I fight the most over this issue of planning. He prefers a schedule, written where we can both refer to it. I also value routine, but writing it down or printing it out creates in me an anxiety that darkens the soul. I fear the failure of more things that are undone, of lists unchecked, of schedules abandoned.

Tasks are measurable. One could look at my schedule, look at my living room, and see that I did not clean as it dictated on my list. But how do you measure the energy and brain power it takes to teach and train a strong willed child? To referee scuffles between siblings? To shepherd, rather than dictate? An entire scheduled day can be derailed by such things.

This week I have been feeling as if God is tearing back the scab of a wound, leaving it raw and vulnerable. My selfishness, my need to control, my unkindness toward Ruthie – it is nothing short of hideous to me. I am sickened by my behavior and the brooding in my heart. Yet, even in my repulsion, it seems I lash out even more.

I am fighting myself. I am fighting God. I know I will walk away with a limp.

(I’m not sure how I got from the beginning of this essay to the end. Clearly, a good free-write exercise can really clear my mind and flush out what’s hiding under the surface of my stress.)

9 thoughts on “An Untitled Essay on Writing and Wickedness”

  1. hang in there, jen. it’s very hard to keep up with family, devote yourself to your writing and take good enough care of yourself so that creativity just flows out of you. i find routines and schedules soul crushing as well. my best strategy so far has been to schedule as much time away as i can get away with without my husband calling a lawyer. i find that even five hours uninterrupted with freedom to let things flow does wonders for me. five days even better, but i can only swing that one once a year. if i can’t get either, i’ll take five minutes and mine it for all it’s worth. but i must have time to myself where no demands are made on me.

    i wrote a piece on burnout for minti that might cheer you up right now.

    you are not alone sistah. hang in there!!! this stuff is hard.

  2. >>
    my best strategy so far has been to schedule as much time away as i can get away with without my husband calling a lawyer.
    >>

    I’m down with that 😉

  3. >>
    He prefers a schedule, written where we can both refer to it.
    >>

    Correction — I prefer a flexible schedule with distinct times for work and re-creation — intentional activities that refresh the soul.

    A schedule to me is just a tool to help keep healthy boundaries for those very necessary areas of my life.

  4. May I just clarify that I was the one who created a bedtime routine for Ruthie, wrote it down in picture form so even a three year old could follow it, and you were the first parent to “flex” it out of the process?

  5. Okay, this back and forth with Bryan has me laughing. 🙂

    I relate so much with the feelings that schedules can bring–the potential for a kind of freedom, combined with the potential for making me feel terrible in the end. The weird thing is that for me, the more that I worked through my writer’s block and fears of sucking at writing (even though I knew I wanted to write and had potential for being good at it), the more the household stuff and feelings of failure around not ever being on top of things there began to straighten out. It’s like the fears of failure paralyzed me on all fronts, and so dealing with the paralysis on one front spread to the others, too. I’ve been meaning to email you privately about a book that has been so helpful for me on the writing front. It’s called “Writing from the Inside Out”, by Dennis Palumbo. Have you heard of it? I know no book is a magic pill, but this one helped me feel so much less crazy and hopeless about doing this thing I wanted to do.

    Many good vibes to you in this craziness of being a mom and a writer.

  6. All this great advice is great and all, but the real question is; who is bringing all the Ben and Jerry’s to the 2 in the afternoon pajama party? I seem to be quite fond of Phish Food myself…goes perfect with a little Jerry Springer..

  7. In the end it will matter little to anyone if our homes, and yards and desks are kept in perfect order or so full of clutter we could write our magnum opus in the dust that lays thereon.

    What matters is that our minds and hearts and arms are always open to love, to soothe, to teach, to feel, to learn. We shouldn’t feel guilty for needing time for renewal. For what can pour out of an empty vessal but dust?

    May your path in life be one of beauty and balance.

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