There are people who ask me what I do all day. I’m always vague. I don’t know how to explain myself, often even to myself.
One answer can be that I watch birds. As I loaded the dishwasher and mulled over this post, I heard the calling of mourning doves from somewhere out along the deep creek. I went out to my screened porch to retrieve my tea mug and startled the little Carolina chickadee at the feeder that is on the other side of the screen, barely two feet away. I paused and the Carolina chickadee looked at me from the oak limb drooping several feet away. I spoke softly to it. Chickadees are not too afraid of humans, and it returned to eat at the feeder, peeking at me, as curious about me as I was about it.
These birds have little to do with this post, except, as I kept mulling over the post in my writerly fashion, I realized watching and learning of birds makes me happy and are a big part of what I do each day. And birds live much by habits, as I do. And nurturing good habits for me is something I am focusing on these days.
Two bits of advice have helped me over the past months, both from Mel Jolly, wise woman and coach to creatives, and I pass them on to you: “Habit trumps motivation,” and “Create before you consume.”
So true about habit–for every living thing. I’ve noticed the birds come at certain times to the feeder. In the case of mourning doves, it is the driveway. My dog knows her breakfast and dinner times and comes as the time grows near to gaze at me, as surely as if she can read a clock. Shortly after I began walking with her in the evenings, she began watching me each evening for the cue we were going for a walk. I tripped her up this morning when I decided to change to mornings.
I began first with the exercise habit, as my life is built on the health of myself and my dog. I chose walking–good and easy for both of us. I started with a tiny habit, only walking twenty minutes three days a week, because I truly disliked the idea. You know–a body not in motion does not want to get in motion. Quite shortly, however, the three days turned into five-six days, often adding stretching, and enjoying it, feeling odd, if I do not do it.
The guide of create before I consume has helped build the daily writing habit, and is proving the impetus to finishing the novel. Creating before consumption can have slightly different meanings for different people. For me it means no mindless scrolling social media on my phone, no listening to podcasts or news or reading anything, before I write. I have even given up listening to music as I write. I can exercise, as I feel that is creating my body, thus the dog and I had our walk already this morning. Afterward, I came directly to the writing page–no putting in a load of wash or looking into accounts or online shopping of that item I just have to buy.
I am delighted to report (do you hear a hallelujah?) that I am in the second to the final chapter, (yes, my novels always take longer for me to write than I had anticipated) and have a clear idea of what these chapters entail. It is a tying up of all the characters and their stories. I’m thrilled to see the end, at last, in sight, “God willing and the creek don’t rise,” as my mother said on occasion. My mother has been much with me in the rewriting and editing of this book.
My practicing the habit of writing–my rear in the chair and writing each day at the same time–without the prod of an editor, or payment, or even publication within sight, going solely with the inner call to write, has made me more centered and content than I have been in a long time. It has brought clarity of what is important to me. I have finally seen that not writing produces in me such a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction with my life. Writing–struggling to get the pictures in my head onto paper, to discover what my inner self is seeking–to explain myself to myself, as it were–produces immense satisfaction, the sort that allows me to breath easy and smile.
What is the title of this novel? I have five possible titles and haven’t chosen the final one. What is the novel about? It is known in the trade as a ‘relationship novel’, of course. It will likely have the label Women’s Fiction on the spine. It might be labeled Romance in order to sell better. It is Southern fiction, a novel of women and marriage and families, a woman’s following faith, even when it grows thin, and with quite a bit of humor. For I find life and humans very funny. When will it be published? I don’t have a clue as to the book’s future form. What I do know is that the writing is what I am to do, and the writing brings me immense satisfaction, and if I keep at it each day, I will have not only a sense of satisfaction, but a book. It’s enough to know today.