The intuitive’s morality is governed neither by thinking nor by feeling; he has his own characteristic morality, which consists in a loyalty to his vision and in voluntary submission to its authority. ~Carl Jung, CW 6, para. 613
Every day was Labor Day this summer. Mental labor. Emotional labor. A labor of love. Labor nonetheless. That’s just the way it is when you’re writing a book. At least for me. I’m exhausted. I’ve been back in Florida for four days, trying to let myself rest. Yesterday was Labor Day. We celebrated our granddaughter’s thirteenth birthday at the beach with our family. Pure pleasure. How can she be thirteen?
Today’s my first day back at work. I’m eager — well maybe anxious is a better word — to get started, but putting it off. It’s time to give you an update. I finished six chapters this summer. Yaayy!! Only two more to go before the first draft is finished. Almost….. There’s so much more to do.
You spend eight hours a day writing two pages and end up on a great high. But by the time you go to bed you’re worried about the next problem. Plus, You have a deadline. Yes, okay, that’s a year away but there’s so much to be done. And so much you’re not sure of. You go back to it the next morning and realize half of what you wrote yesterday needs to be trashed because it’s empty. Boring. Meaningless. Dry. Too wordy. Whatever. You dread starting over. Find excuses to stall. Force yourself to start. At the end of the day you feel good again because you know it’s better. Maybe you’ll change it tomorrow. But that’s okay. You’re making progress and that feels wonderful.
You fall asleep quickly, wake up the next day forming sentences, playing with words, choosing this one over that one. You can’t wait to get to your computer because you’ve rewritten the opening lines in your head and don’t want to forget. You think you may have had a dream. What was it…..? But you can’t remember. All you have are the words you woke up with. The dream is lost. You wish you could recapture it. You think it might have been a good one.
You write down the words before you forget. Izzy nudges your elbow. She needs breakfast and a walk. You throw on some clothes, feed her, take her for a walk, make yourself a quick breakfast. Go back to the computer. The next thing you know it’s four hours later. Time for lunch. You don’t want to stop because you’re on a high again. But the phone rings, or the handyman knocks on the door. Or Izzy wants to go out.
So you do what needs to be done, all the time thinking about the last paragraph. Rehearsing the beginning of the next one. The pressure to get back to work never leaves. You make notes to yourself on your iPhone as you walk through the woods, impatient to return. You feel guilty because you’re not even enjoying Izzy’s delight at running around free, sniffing everything. Oops. She’s finishing a half-eaten, ant-ridden green tomato some critter gnawed on, then dropped. Digestive enzymes will see to them.
You force yourself to stop thinking. Just observe. Breathe. You smile. Gaze at the cloudless pale blue-gray sky. The mountains peeking through the spaces between the trees surrounding this valley nest where you live every summer. Like those Carolina wrens that return every year to the same nest in your porch planter. A yellow leaf spirals to the ground, a fiery flicker of light from the cherry tree that’s struggled all summer. Another tree dying?
You give Izzy a treat and make a lunch and force yourself to sit on the porch in your favorite rocking chair. You worry too much. Push yourself too hard. You need to enjoy the moment. You close your eyes. Slow and deepen your breath. Tell yourself the book will wait. Watch the birds vying for perches at the feeders.
A hummingbird stares at you and flies closer. It hovers a foot away from your face. You hold your breath, afraid to move. It flies lightly past your left ear. You sit still as stone, feeling the gentle breeze from its wings on the back of your neck. Do stones feel the breezes of hummingbird wings? You hear the soft hum in your right ear. She’s circling your head. You want to hold out your hand and invite her to rest, but you know she’ll only fly away. She does anyway. You smile, relish this magic moment. Then you get up, put your dishes away, go back to work.
The next morning you wake up with more words. A dream image flashes past. You let go of the words, close your eyes, breathe. Invite the image back.
Dream #4972. My friend and I have ridden motorcycles to the back of this vast complex of buildings. I’m hiding in the shadows by the back door. I’m trying to disguise myself as an old woman. I have to cover my hair with a cloth and stoop over so they won’t recognize me. The man with me is over on my left, trying to bluff a guard into letting us into the building. I’m afraid they’ll discover we don’t belong here. I think we’re imposters. But my friend convinces them that John Somebody invited us. Somehow, the man lets us in. We wander through. There are others here. Why are they here? Why are we here? I don’t know. I only know I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’ve made it this far. Might as well have a look around until I know what the next step will be.
It’s been like that with my book every day. Joy and angst. Worry and guilt I can’t shake off. Conflicts I don’t know how to resolve. A mission I can’t stop trying to complete. I feel like an imposter. Yet my animus keeps pushing me to do this. I don’t know why. We just have to.
To live oneself means: to be one’s own task. Never say that it is a pleasure to live oneself. It will be no joy but a long suffering, since you must become your own creator. ~Carl Jung, The Red Book, p. 249
It’s a beautiful obsession. Back to work.
Special thanks to Lewis Lafontaine for posting the exact quote on Facebook I needed this morning.