Relax. Revel. Appreciate. Repeat. By Shan Jeniah

“ Relax. Revel. Appreciate. Repeat.”
 Sandra Dodd, possibly paraphrased
These words, were written to me at a moment when I was stressed and overwhelmed by my inability to keep up with Jeremiah’s rapid growth. They urged me to settle back into just being with him, and to enjoy his unfolding; to let myself be amazed and awestruck by it, and him. 

What, though, does this have to do with writing, or with ROW80?

This is my fourth round of ROW80, and I have noticed something.
Sometimes, the goals and updates people are posting do not seem fun. There is a strong sense of “have to” , of work and drudgery and gritted teeth, about them.
It reminds me of thinking I needed to keep up with Jeremiah’s rapid changes. When goals are like this, for me, there is a clenched feel to the progress I’m making. I experience great tension as I toil to reach those goals.As a parent whose focus is on connection and joyous, natural learning, this feels like adding a huge obstacle to the challenge. It’s hard for me to force myself to do things I feel I must do, without necessarily

wanting to do them, and it’s seldom pleasant.I find it easier to strive toward goals that make my spirit sing, with a merry sense of abandon and possibility… to open myself to play….to free myself up to fail, the way I fail when I am learning any new game or skill. It’s a type of

 small failure that I take for granted, in that context, but which swells to monstrous proportions when I struggle to get the work done.When playing, failure tends to beckon me to stretch toward eventual success, mostly without angst. I take the lumps, because I want the delight of mastering the skill involved.

When working at something I feel I have to get done, failure tends to make me frustrated, discouraged, and like I’ve wasted my time. It’s deflating.

When playing, success feels – well,

AWESOME!!! I revel in it, crow it out, dance in my soul at the exuberance of accomplishing what I set out to do, no matter how long or strenuous the journey was.When working, success feels – well, more like something to tick off the to-do list, take a quick breath, and get back to work. I’m

working, after all, and there are still so many things to get done. There’s no time to bask even a little while in the glow of my accomplishment.

It took me years to realize that this clenched feeling is obvious in my writing. When I am pushing through, focused only on getting things done, there is a tension that keeps me from touching my deeper thoughts and emotions. My writing feels forced and tight and harried.
When I am relaxed, when I come to my writing without stakes other than to write my truth or fantasy of the moment, wonderful things happen. I write out what is within me. If it is an essay, my deepest places may reveal themselves, without my intending to expose them. When I am writing fiction, the scenes begin to spark and sizzle with life, bounding out of places within me that I do not understand and can’t touch intentionally.
How about you? Do you revel in your writing, or is it another chore on your list? If it’s a chore, or you’re just feeling clenched, or you just want a change, here are a few quick ideas that might help shift your energies. All of these have helped to shake me up, from time to time.
  • Have someone write words or phrases on slips of paper and fold them. Put them in a jar, and draw one. Write, seriously, playfully, angrily – whatever. My husband did this for me early in our marriage. His quirky sense of humor led to some wonderful little pieces, and I laughed. A lot.
  • Write when you are very tired, perhaps half-asleep. I don’t know if this will work for everyone. My mind works in imagery, and, when I’m sleepy, dream-images start to infiltrate my thoughts. Also, my internal censor goes silent.
  • Play a game or clean house. I routinely play games with distinct patterns, but which are very unlike my creative process, when I am mulling a piece over . They allow patterns and ideas to emerge while I play. Hometending is repetitive and leaves my mind free to wander.
  • Grab a notebook and pen or your keyboard, set a timer, and just write about anything – or nothing at all -until it goes off. Remember, it doesn’t matter what you write; you’re just trying to relax into your words.
  • Spend some time with children or animals, watching or interacting. My children have a way of revealing angles I might never otherwise have considered, and they notice things I overlook. They are joyfully present in their own lives, and that tends to feed my muse. Animals perceive in very different ways than humans; time with my dog makes me more attentive to subtle shifts in facial expression and body language, and hints at a reality I will never know.
  • Relax. Revel. Appreciate. Repeat. Look at these words, and ask yourself how they might apply t to your writing – and your life.
My son, at 11, seems to be on a breakneck course toward puberty, these days. He’s changing faster than at any time since infancy, and he is filled with big ideas, new understandings, and huge emotions. And I am grateful for those words that help me ride the waves of his growing up, without wiping out – and which have helped me to embrace the joyfulness of my writing life, too…

Relax. Revel. Appreciate. Repeat.
I challenge you all to find a way (or many ways!) to infuse some joy and play into your writing goals this week!

 ~*~

Shan Jeniah

7 comments

  1. I love this. It’s a fantastic reminder that I write because it’s fun and life-enhancing. My two dogs remind me frequently to stop working (so that I can do something for them, such as playing with a toy or rubbing their bellies).

  2. What an excellent post. If it’s not fun, then we need to ask ourselves, why are we doing it? I love your suggestions and pretty much do all of them. You now have made clear to me why Bubble Town and Fairy Land are two games I gravitate towards while I’m writing. I’ll play a round or two as a distraction when I’m in a scene that’s giving me issues and it really does seem to help me think through it. And yes, the dogs always remind me to just breathe and have fun.

  3. Fabulous! I have always loved the scene in THE ROOKIE where the older-man baseball player is frustrated about traveling with a minor league team and being away from his family for so long, and finally he has the epiphany that he gets to play baseball every dang day and he loves doing just that. He makes the decision to revel in the baseball when he’s on the field and revel in his family when he’s at home.

    Beautifully put! I will be remembering to revel in my writing this week. I am so lucky/blessed to get to write.

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