2022 is shaping up to be an eerie replay of 2021. Disruptions, cancellations and a feeling that things are on hold again pervade. When I go into the supermarket, black masks, the Darth Vader kind if you follow the advice and ditch the cloth mask for the N95, cover smiles.
Unfortunately, I felt I had no choice but to cancel our January read around of Women’s Writing Circle. After so long, we had finally broken the isolation—as one writer put it, “It’s almost a miracle” —meeting around a lighted candle in the library after more than a year. Although January is the month when the women are most invested and eager to make writing a daily routine, we again rely on our own fortitude and discipline, rather than community, to make that happen. My hope is that we return to the Circle by early spring. But for now …
Maybe, it’s time to simplify, to create, something psychologists agree is a way to reduce anxiety. As Franz Kafka said, “You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
Whether writing, listening to music, taking a walk, painting a watercolor, or simply imagining a new place, a new way of living, creativity reduces anxiety.
My friend said to me the other day when he called from the Midwest, “This is a dangerous country to live in. Too many people don’t care how their actions affect others.” There’s something to be said for sitting still, waiting this out, he said. We shared stories. A vaccinated friend who had tested positive, jumped on a plane anyway because testing isn’t required on domestic flights … and he had no patience to rent a car and drive the 800 miles home.
Margaret Atwood said, one word after another and another is POWER. A writer takes a real-life event and recreates through imagination a memory, a new take on a relationship, a moment of being that crystallizes into truth.
A story invokes another story and another, but patience is necessary. Brenda Ueland said, “If you write, good ideas must come welling up into you so that you have something to write. If good ideas do not come at once, or for a long time, do not be troubled at all. Wait for them. Put down the ideas no matter how insignificant they are. But do not feel, anymore, guilty about idleness and solitude.”
As a person who often bought into that worn mantra ‘Make each day count’, whether through writing, completing a home improvement project, going to work, raising children, I find pleasure in a drive past fields reflecting winter’s luminous turquoise and gold palette. Although I’ve made the same drive hundreds of times, I move a little slower now, take more notice. At the gym last week, a woman felt I wasn’t moving quickly enough as we put away our weights. “Move it, Susan,” she said. Over the last two years I’ve learned the value of slowing down. I said this to her. She shrugged and rolled her eyes. Everyone moves at their own pace. For me, a page well crafted, a flock of geese, a conversation with a friend, a workout at the gym is enough. I feel the anxiety fall away. What could be simpler than that?
5 thoughts on “Simplicity and the Creative Life”
This is beautiful, Susan: Your own words blended with others. It seems uncanny to me now that Kafka used the word “unmasked,” here of course in a writerly way.
Although you may have felt like slapping the woman who said, “Move it, Susan,” you had a wise reply. These days I too relish solitude and try to resist the inner voice that says, “Move it, Marian.”
Thanks for your lovely Christmas greeting. I have it on display beside my computer now as encouragement while I mine new material, for My Checkered Life, slogging through Aunt Ruthie’s teen diaries, faded entries alternately printed or in cursive. 🙂
Thank you, Marian. I’m honored my card serves as encouragement. Your new project sounds extremely interesting. I suspect you will be mining the diaries for more clues as to Aunt Ruthie’s raison d’etre, as a way to present a strong woman’s portrait, as well as a deep dive into your own challenges and influences coming from a unique culture, time and place. I think of Virginia Woolf writing about her father and her family, growing up in London. If you read “Moments of Being” which is a collection of her memoir pieces spanning four decades, it will give you a thrill at her genius and ability to reflect with an unsparing eye. Anyway, you must feel like an explorer. Solitude and reflection (your word for 2022) become instrumental in that quest.
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Susan, I’m pretty sure that I checked this book out of the library last year, but the print was teeny-tiny, and unreadable for me. I’ll try again to make sure “Moments of Being” was the book I actually requested. Unfortunately, it is not available in large print.
Yes, I do feel like an explorer. Thanks for the follow-up here.
Susan, you’ve touched on many of my emotions and thoughts over the last two years. I especially noted your sentence — “Over the last two years I’ve learned the value of slowing down.” I’ve learned much about slowing down during the pandemic, and I feel in a way it has been a gift. I’ve never been a slow mover. Categorized by many as Type A, I used to get irritated by the slower members of our population, but now I’m the one holding up traffic. Thanks for a beautifully written essay and beautiful images scattered throughout. Happy New Year to you, Sherrey.
Hi Sherrey. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment. I’m glad it resonated. I’ve never been a “slow mover” myself, as you put it. I think it’s just really hard to plan trips and such right now, another reason to slow down because what choice is there? I hope you and Bob get to Scandinavia this year. I’m hoping to get back to Europe in September. In the meantime, solitude and reflection are friends here “along the writer’s way.”. Happy New Year.