Sunday, July 24, 2011

Re-Entry: Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop and Revisions

When I come back from a trip, I always go through a period of re-adjustment to daily life. It often begins with a burst of industry that includes doing laundry, opening mail, and restocking the refrigerator, then progresses to being-unable-to-settle. This time, I arrived home sleep-deprived, caffeinated, exhilarated, mind-stuffed-with-astronomy, and intoxicated on sea-level oxygen (after a week at 7600' altitude). . . and a novel to revise.

This process of energy --> slump --> focus intrigues me. It feels as if I'm in turbo-charged mode when I'm at a convention or, in this case, an intensive workshop, and that momentum carries me for a short time after I'm home. I consistently fall prey to the delusion that I'll get home and immediately start back to work (with all the enthusiasm and nifty insights I've garnered on my trip). But once I'm actually home, a temporary but disabling but highly productive ADD sets in. Whatever my intentions, my attention gets drawn -- as a fly to honey -- to this or that pile of clutter. While I've been away -- at a con, at a workshop, on vacation -- someone else cleans the room, washes the dishes, etc., leaving my thoughts free to do what thoughts do without the daily distractions of housekeeping, bill paying, grocery shopping, and the like. One reason re-entry is jarring is that suddenly I'm confronted with all these demands at once. Perhaps if I were a less tidy person, I could ignore them, but I'm not so I can't, and I run around like a madwoman trying to do them all, pouring my energy into a vain attempt to beat back the chaos in my environment. Said chaos and I achieve an uneasy truce just about the time my energy fails.

And then, rest. Sleep, certainly, and getting back into my usual circadian rhythms. And bumbling about the internet and the garden and the back shelves of the garage. Muttering about how I should be sitting down to work, while clearly doing nothing toward that end. Notice that even the sentences I use to describe this phase are disjointed (aimless, really, but you're nice to not point that out.)

Eventually, in a day or three or a week, I've found an equilibrium with both chaos and creativity. I'm finished the "catch-up" and the "collapse." It seems that half the great writing ideas that came to me are lost, but at least I am able to apply fanny to chair and fingers to keyboard. It's an act of trust that whatever brilliant notions that have come and gone will come again. Perhaps it will be in a form and at a time I least expect. Or perhaps my mind, having once stretched itself in that direction, will be moved to do so again with a different but equally inspiring result.

Life is interruptions, accidents, or, as Mark Twain said, "one damned thing after another." It's taken me decades to trust my commitment to my work. This has included far too many years when I had to fight for any time at all in which to write. I don't have to flagellate myself because I'm not doing it all the time. Everyone else's mileage may vary. For me, an essential skill is understanding when I need to give myself a little push (turn OFF the browser NOW!) and when I need to leave the laundry unfolded, the dishes unwashed, the dust bunnies unmolested and plunge -- head-first, breathless, and deep -- into a world of my of creation.

The illustration is "Peasant Woman Sweeping Floor," by Vincent Van Gogh, 1885.

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