Good morning, Reader (well, it’s morning here on the west coast anyway). I’ve been up early writing, and then making banana bread.
Yes, I’d just wrapped up my daily-ish practice of morning reading and writing (which I wrote about here) and was about to move on to a residency application I’m working on when it struck me: I should really throw together some banana bread, and then get back to writing as it baked.
Let me preface my remarks by saying there have been Dead Bananas in the house for days. And Many, Many Requests.
Let me also say that, as I stood up from my desk to find the flour it dawned on me that there was a time in my life when I never would’ve interrupted my writing time to make banana bread. Never. Ever.
But this morning, it seemed like no big deal: seven minutes mixing up ingredients, and then 50 more minutes at my desk.
It dawned on me that it’s possible to make one’s writing time too sacred, and that, indeed, I’ve been guilty of that myself. There was a time when No One was allowed to sit at my writing desk or use my computer. When Nothing could be on my writing desk except my writing stuff. When I had to have just the right pen and just the right notebook. And Quiet. Yes, definitely Quiet.
This militance may just have been my way of coping with the reality of having three wee ones in the house and very little time or space that was only mine. On the other hand, I think it’s possible to make one’s writing time and writing space too sacred. If that time and space becomes too sacred, it can also become a source of pressure and expectations: I Must Now Write a Poem. And by Poem I mean Poem.
And pressure and expectations and rigid rules can squelch the creative process, which, optimally, is grounded in freedom and play.
This is not to say that we don’t need time devoted solely to our life’s work, or that it’s not okay to set aside time and space for that work. My kids know they need to ask before they can use my desk or computer. But that’s just good manners, it’s not a charm against contamination. They know when mom says, to quote Joan Didion, Shush, I’m working, they’re expected to let me work (and happily, they’re now all old enough to understand and implement this!). And yes, there is some work that requires time and space away from the everyday, and I do make sure I get that time and space. But I think I’ve also learned to let the boundaries be a bit more fluid, to let the creative and the everyday bleed into one another somewhat.
There’s a Greek word temenos meaning “a sacred place, a precinct set apart.” It’s from temnein, “to cut off.” I think I’m learning to cut temenos free from a particular time and physical space, and to enter that “precinct set apart” spiritually. I’ve learned that it’s okay to stack laundry on my writing desk and to take seven minutes to throw together some banana bread. The work will still be there, the sacred, creative place will open its door and welcome me in, despite the fact that there’s flour on my face (oops).
May you always find your temenos when you need it. (Oh, and…, there’s the timer for the banana bread….).