After I collapsed 2 large writing projects — a memoir and an essay collection — I felt so inadequate. Everyone else is able to publish stunning work, and I am still toddling around, gripping crayons.
The main problem it seemed was a debilitating self-consciousness. A fear of being seen as less than, not good enough. No matter what device, ritual, or affirmation I tried, the self-doubt hung here, a bully who’d found a satisfying target.
“Just let the writing go,” my writing coach said to my surprise. I had recently gone on a solo weekend retreat, and I told her how much I had loved walking around the meadows. I’d go 3 times a day, sometimes for 2 hours at a time, and come back with boots and socks sopping with dew.
I had come to the retreat center to rest after caring for a sick family member. When I drove into the parking lot, it was almost dark. But something pulled me toward the land. The fields were dusted with twilight and I wanted to hear crickets twilling under the brush. Soon I was breathing barrels of air. I walked beside thickets of bare trees, some covered with wiry winter vines, and felt awe for their ordinary beauty. I didn't feel separate anymore.
“Build nature walks into your weekly schedule,” my coach advised. “And go no matter what, rain or shine.” It sounded great, but I didn't think I could take time away from all that I had to do.
It has been 5 weeks now that I’ve been visiting 3 different nature preserves, each about a 10-minute drive from my house. I watch creeks polish rocks and fungus make rainbows on logs, instead of grinding down my to-do list or attempting to please an editor. I feel sun blanketing my shoulders and the cushion of decomposing leaves under my feet.
I don't know how long I'll do this or where it's leading. I wonder, what might eventually happen to my writing if I flood it with presence instead of productivity? No goals or intentions, targets or ambitions. Is it possible to write this way? If it were, how long could I sustain it, living as I do in society?
Maybe if I keep disappearing into the woods, I’ll discover a secret portal. Or maybe I’ll become more like the wild grasses and the clouds, and I’ll forget I even knew there was a problem.