Anchoring Amidst the Chaos
by jane arie baldwin
I did something unprecedented for me the other day in this time right before Christmas, this time of shopping, and sending annual cards, and creating calendars to send to grandparents with my daughter’s photographs. At the end of last week I wrote a Manifesto, stating the exact days and times that I would write and declared that slice of time – a couple of hours three times a week – as sacred. I would schedule no appointments, answer no calls, make no impromptu trips to the store for those little bitty things on the list that are easy to check off. Checking ‘toilet paper’ off the list is easy. Checking off ‘finish book draft,’ — not so much.
It’s easy for me to set the writing of my book aside and say that I need more time than a couple of hours here and a couple of hours there. For the last two months I’ve had this feeling of ‘trying to get back to my writing,’ as if it’s as far away as the moon when there’s a hardcopy sitting on a chair near the dining table. When I m not writing on a consistent basis I feel an urgency deep under my skin, an urgency that is only quelled by tending to writing as one would tend to a garden. Writing is the key to my creative wellbeing. There are other creative outlets (playing music, pottery) that I engage in that keep my left brain in balance with my right and they all enhance my creative wellbeing. Yet writing is the one that most feeds my soul. I asked myself one day last week, “How is it that you can find time each week for a pottery class but not for your writing?” Indeed, I had been to four, one-hour pottery classes in my life and had produced many bowls, cups, and pots. What would happen if I spent even one hour a week on my book draft?
Distractions are a funny thing and they come in many forms. Right now my biggest distraction is keeping at bay the feeling of frenzy that comes with this season — the season that at its heart is about gratitude. So if you are feeling overwhelm any at all BEFORE the holidays then this time is an especially sensitive time for you. For me it’s very easy to get caught up in the feeling of frenzy. I see people walking out of stores, their shopping bags overflowing and I think, “am I forgetting someone?” “Should I get so and so more something something?” If I’m not careful I can buy into the chaos all around me.
That is why my Manifesto has been so amazing. I made my plan. Notice I didn’t say, “I set my goals.” With me there is something about the word ‘goals’ that makes me go all Type A and get sick — catch a cold and fall under the weather for many days in a row. And I made a plan that felt attainable and added a couple of caveats. One, if I cannot make the day I have set aside then I schedule the same block of time on another day. A second caveat is that if I cannot make the total block time then I pick an amount of time that will work for me that day. Any amount that I feel comfortable with that will keep my writing fresh in my mind will enhance my creative wellbeing. Wiggle room is of utmost importance to me because if I feel trapped, if I make a strict schedule that I must stick to – I will rebel with a big F*&K IT! And that reaction is the opposite of what I really want to happen. I want to finesse my creative wellbeing. I want to nurture it. I want my creative wellbeing to expand, not contract.
My Manifesto is already working. Just this morning I had to move some things around on my calendar as my daughter Ruby woke up with a fever and I opted to let her sleep-in a couple of hours and take her to school late. Rather than falling into old habits and using this experience as an example of how, “creating sacred time in my life will never work because my time is not my own,” I laid down next to her and closed my eyes. We awoke a little over an hour later feeling refreshed. When I revisited my Manifesto I immediately felt its effects as an anchor — as it is anchoring me to what is really important to my creative wellbeing. Reading it. Taking action. Scheduling even fifteen minutes, heck, even two minutes has anchored me in stillness and self-confidence rather than the external chaos.