For the past few months, in a frankly indefensible violation of my own productivity principles (o hypocrisy! how bitter – albeit with a kind of karmic-justice, cosmic-balance sort of tang – thy fruit!), I’ve let my daily writing / weekly poem discipline slip.
It’s been grimly amusing to observe the effects of the lapse. The consequence has been something that you might call Displacement Hustle: a constant feverish churning of ideas for fresh “para-poetic” projects, new business schemes and worthy volunteer activities, all powered, I’m quite sure, by an underlying, re-channeled guilty anxiety about not writing.
In normal circumstances, it’s both fun and stimulating to dream up plans like these – and, indeed, to put some of them into action. The predominant effect of Displacement Hustle, however, is an irritable fretfulness, a sense of not being at ease but not actually achieving very much either. The mental churn produces (or compounds, in my own regrettably relaxation-incompetent case) an inability to switch off and recharge. A little while ago I saw a sign asking “What’s your guilty pleasure?” and found myself thinking “I don’t have one”, which was swiftly corrected to “Curling up and reading a book during the day” (guilty pleasure? For a writer??), and then immediately followed (possibly, I fear, out loud, such was my self-exasperation) by “For feck’s SAKE, have you learned NOTHING?”
Two weeks ago, (and mostly driven, I’m ashamed to say, not by the sagacious glory of my insight but by my desperation to escape the ceaseless machinations of my own suddenly hyper-entrepreneurial brain,) I resumed my weekly-poem practice. What do I have to show for those two weeks? No new grand schemes in play, no new business or community activities on the go – just two little poems. And you know what? That’s enough. That’s the baseline, the pulse, the required quantum of making-something-happen; it’s the modicum of fruitfulness that dispels the wheel-spinning, mind-hijacking fretfulness.
Maybe next week, or next month, or next year, I’ll get some other new projects going as well – but I hope I’ll remember that these things are extras; that as long as I can hold to the discipline of a creative baseline, then anything more, as Raymond Carver famously declared, will be all gravy.