Reader, I’m back. I enjoyed my sabbatical. I slept in, didn’t write, read a little but didn’t analyze, turned 40, and did all the school shopping. I tinkered with the stack of poems just a little bit, nothing serious. I didn’t catch up on e-mails or letter-writing. I didn’t call the plumber. I didn’t make a dentist appointment or fill in my new school-year calendar. I did run out of milk and T.P., but it was more of a conscious choice than it is usually.
Now the kids are in school and I’m navigating the buffeting winds of reentry — reentry to the school year schedule and to the desk of a working mother.
I must say, taking a week-long writing sabbatical was really good for me. First of all, there was no tug-of-war between writing time and the other areas of my life. It was almost seductive: This is so much easier, I kept thinking to myself. I could do this all the time. Yes, I could, in theory, but I’ve tried that before — tried walking away from the writing life, and it’s impossible. So, I hereby lash myself to the mast of the good ship Poetry and accept that, most of the time, I’ll be playing tug-of-war. Just think what strong muscles I’ll have! But, to combat the exertion of tug-of-war, I’m definitely going to build in regular sabbaticals like the one I’ve just finished up. I truly believe that the writing life and process continue through periods of not writing, they just do their work in different ways. Rest can have bountiful yields, if you are willing to wait for a while to see what ends up in your harvest. My next sabbatical will be during Thanksgiving week, unless I feel I need one before that.
The mini-sabbatical also made me realize that I live most of my life in a state of writerly high-alert. That’s the thing about writing, right? A poem could strike at any time. I never leave the house with out a notebook and writing instruments (or a book, for that matter). I’m always on the look out for interesting scenes, bits of dialogue, moments of kairos, etc. This is good in so many ways — good in the sense of living an attentive, full-of-wonder life. But during my week off, I realized that it can also be a lot of pressure to walk around every day primed for whatever inspiration may strike, feeling like I have to be ready to stop, drop, and write at any moment. I’m going to try to set some clearer boundaries about when I’m on duty and when I’m off duty as a writer — not that I will be completely closed off to inspiration during off duty hours, but that I will try not to feel like I always have to be on high-alert. Constant high-alert can be tiring. Sometimes it’s good to take breaks.
In a brush of synchronicity, yesterday Erin at Being Poetry wrote about not writing. If you need someone to let you off the hook of not writing (or not fill-in-the-blanking from your own life), go read her thoughts.
This week I will look more at the Stack. I’ll read through my drafts that are in the resting drawer. I’ll send out two submissions. I’ll try not to run out of milk and T.P. — really, I will! And I’ll enjoy some quiet, wide open hours at my desk and at the library. It feels good to be back.