This month I set some boundaries and goals for myself: I limited my to-do list to five items per day, and tried to be in bed by 2am each night. With Alice going to pre-school at 9am two days each week, my book deadlines coming up, Hello Holiday orders, Radvent and the pressures of the holidays, I just had to draw a line as far as how I can use my time. Each day I write three things (usually a Radvent or two, and a thing for the book or two), ship all of the day’s orders for Hello Holiday, and get to inbox zero. That’s it. Other than that, I make gingerbread houses with Alice, wrap gifts, make cookies, take a nap, have dinner with my family, put Alice to bed…things people do. Things I should do. Most days I’ve been successful with achieving all five things on my list, but writing can be such a cruel vocation.
When I don’t have anything to say, I can’t write anything good.
I can’t force myself to sit down and type something intelligent or think of a creative, never-before-seen tutorial and compose the instructions perfectly.
When I have nothing to say, I have nothing to write, and the only thing to do is empty my mind.
There’s no better phrase for it. Empty your mind. Not calm it, not focus it, but completely clear it. The only way I’ve found to do that is by taking a break in silence.
In silence, at first, you can “hear” EVERYTHING you’re internalizing. It’s not calming, it’s not comfortable, and if you keep listening to those voices, engaging them, conversing with them, they will never subside and allow the possibilities of quiet to unfold. When I was little, my grandma taught me to think about one word over and over to quiet my mind and be able to fall asleep. In my office now, I usually have some kind of white noise in the background–a heater, an air conditioner, the fan on my computer running, traffic outside. If I listen, I can find it somewhere. To quiet my mind, I stop listening to my thoughts and start listening to the slow hushing roar of the electricity hum or the tires on pavement. I do close my eyes, and sometimes I do accidentally fall asleep, but if I set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes with a quiet alarm, I find the brief time I spent quieting my thoughts goes a long way toward finishing my writing goals.
Choose to be quiet for ten minutes today.
Try one of the techniques I mentioned above to quiet your mind, or do what works for you. Reading a book, going to a new place for a change of scenery, or even driving on some back roads can calm and refocus your thoughts.
Wait before speaking.
There are so many times–especially around the this time of year with the pressures of family and expectations of the holidays, when I’ve spoke to soon and regretted something I’ve said. Be conscious and present in your voice today and pause to consider the meaning of your words and the context of the situation before you speak. Take time respond. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” or try keeping your opinion to yourself. I’m trying to ask myself before I speak if what I’m going to say is true, helpful, and worded the way I intend for it to sound. Otherwise it probably won’t hurt to keep my thoughts to myself until I can express them better.
Let others reveal their thoughts.
I have a few friends who are amazing listeners. When we get together for drinks or lunch, I soon realize that I’ve monopolized the conversation and we’ve been talking about me for almost the entire time. Listen, I’m not a good conversationalist. It doesn’t come naturally to me and it’s a skill I’ve needed to develop–I think I’ve probably missed out on some good friendships just because I sounded like an ass when we first met. I try to impress people by making them laugh, and relate to them by sharing “me too” stories, but I’ve realized that people want to make their own points (without me making it MY point too). Being quiet in the office is one thing for me, when I’m trying to write, and it’s an entirely different issue when I’m out with other people.
Reflect on a time when you received some important information, or achieved something impressive because you had the strength to be quiet and wait.
You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
Do you have any thoughts or reactions to today’s Radvent topic? I’d love to read your blog responses or comments below. Or, just be quiet.