“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” –Louis L’Amour–
What a great visual to the writing process! Through the analogy, L’Amour gives some simple advice for all the writers out there: just start.
I have thought about blogging for years now. I have put it off and put it off — and I don’t even really know why. But isn’t that like us all? Oftentimes in life we don’t even have solid reasons for what we do (and don’t do).
I blame it on the Keep-Your-Life-So-Busy-You-Don’t-Have-Time-To-Think Syndrome, KYLSBYDHTTT Syndrome for short. As Chandler Bing would say, “Could we have busier lives?” Even when we are forced to take a break from life (sitting down for a quality poo for one example), we still take our phones with us! And I bet there are people out there who have checked their phones mid shower. So when we’re not scrolling on the phones, why do we feel the need to fill our lives with so much work and so many activities?
What is our busyness actually preventing us from doing?
I remember years ago when I worked at Pier One Imports, my manager would talk to me about how she wanted to lose weight but hated going on walks. She hated walks, she said, because when she walked, she would think. And then she’d get sad. So instead, she kept her life busy working extra shifts, singing in the community choir, and reading books at Barnes and Noble. Working and singing and reading were certainly not paving her road to Hell, but they were keeping her from facing reality. When the activities we do are good (and maybe your activities include working out — great!), we justify doing them — even if they are preventing us from really thinking about our lives.
But why is introspection so avoided and feared? Perhaps when we look inward we begin to realize that things aren’t 100% OK (this is reality, people). And then what? I see two potential responses here:
- We accept that things are not OK in our lives and just keep living, knowing things could (should) be better.
- We make changes. We make changes so that we can have better lives.
Clearly the second response is better. But change is hard. It takes effort. And honestly? It’s easier to just stay busy, which is what most people do.
But we don’t have to be “most people.”
So in our thinking/introspecting/writing journey, the first step is to be less busy. Let’s give our brains a chance! And as L’Amour references the faucet, I think it starts in the bathroom.
I’ll tell you, as a teacher, I come up with some of my best ideas when I’m sitting on the pot (sans phone) or taking a shower (also sans phone). So I really appreciate the analogy of turning on the faucet — and in my mind it’s the shower faucet. Here’s a beautiful thing about our brains: they don’t really ever turn off (well, maybe if you watch The Bachelorette). It’s no wonder that mankind has accomplished such feats century after century. It’s like God created our brains to be faucets that are always turned on, water running. But sometimes it seems we’re doing everything we can to turn the faucet off. Here’s how:
- being phone zombies
- being TV/computer/iPad screen zombies
- scheduling our days to be full of activities
- using our kids to justify scheduling our days to be full of activities
- working ridiculous hours
- always being with people
- cleaning house
I am totally guilty of several of those, and I think they probably prevented me from starting this blog years ago. The thing is, there are always going to be activities that we prioritize over quiet reflection. Right now I could easily be vacuuming my house. With two furry dogs and three (not furry) boys, the floors in my house sometimes feel like a walk on the beach — a sandy yet furry beach. But I’ve decided to (try to) ignore the floors and let my fingers tap keys.
Writing, like reading, is something I think every human should do. It’s amazing what happens when we force ourselves to write. I preach this to my students all the time (after nagging “Keep your pencil moving!” during various writing activities). Often with writing, we can’t predict where we’ll go. I normally write with my students, and even after 14 years of teaching, as I write about a passage from a book we’re reading, I find myself analyzing it in ways I never would have predicted had I not written down my thoughts in sentences. It is seriously magical! And aside from the magic, it’s exercise for our brains! Win win on that.
Magic and exercise — how can you say no to that? So now it’s time to decide how you’ll do it. For me, starting a blog was the accountability I needed. But for others, keeping a journal might be the way to go. If you’re a teacher, you better be writing when you’re asking your students to write. (Even if you’re not an English teacher — the horror!) Let’s help each other out:
- How do you make time to think and write?
- In what format do you write?
- And finally, how does writing make you feel?
For me, I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile — for myself and hopefully others. But at the end of the day, I know I need to write, regardless of how many views or likes or comments my posts get. Because when I write, my brain gets to play. The pace of my day slows, and I come away feeling invigorated. And you know what? My floors are so incredibly patient. They don’t mind if I hold off on vacuuming.
So turn on the faucet, and let’s do this. How? Check it out:
- Be less busy. Unschedule yourself.
- Allow yourself to think. Peel yourself off the screens, and use the bathroom by yourself.
- Put pencil to paper. Or fingers to keys (thumbs are for the space-bar). Or stylus to — ew, no, don’t do that.
Happy writing, everyone.