Kate Flora: When I told my husband Ken that my goal for the summer was to embrace
indolence, he responded that he thought that was kind of a negative word. He may be right, and I would welcome suggestions from all of you for a better term. Here’s what you will be describing.
Ever since I bought my first computer and joined my fellow writers in the unpublished writer’s corner thirty-four years ago, I’ve been an obsessive writer. I like obsession. I embrace obsession. I thrive on those hours when I get to be glued to my keyboard, the words and stories flowing, my characters taking wing and sometimes misbehaving. I have loved being in story and seeing where the adventure takes me. My trust laptop has been lugged all over the world because I seem never to have been without a deadline, or a final set of edits, or something that has to be created that just can’t wait.
Well. I’m not going to stop writing, but I am going to step back from letting that laptop control my life. Just imagine how much lighter I will feel if I’m not hiking through the Czech Republic with a laptop in my backpack?
Just like learning the discipline of writing, though, I think learning the discipline of indolence, or getting into the zen of gardening, or taking the time to watch the clouds, or simply sitting and inhaling the magic of Harpswell sunsets, will be a challenge. I get this restless feeling when I’m not working. When I’m trying to beat back the goutweed that is devouring a flower bed, I find that I am making lists of what I need to do in the writing world. I will be admiring the clear spot that I’ve finally carved from a wilderness of weeds, and suddenly I will be thinking: No. Wait. That interview is still too short. Something else needs to come out in it which will connect to something a character said earlier. I will be wondering: Where, exactly, has Heidi gone, and is she safe or is she in danger? And when we will finally find a body–this is a murder mystery, after all.
Okay. So achieving indolence will not be easy. I can loll about, reading a novel, from perhaps half an hour before I start making a list of chores to be done and get snapped back that elusive plot again.
But it is a start.
I’ve long said that writers need to pay attention to the world that surrounds us so that we
can refill the well of character, setting, and detail. I know that the creative soul needs nourishment, not just steady work and endless applications of seat to seat. So maybe, despite the pleasure with which I announce my new dedication to indolence, I am lying to myself, and to you. Maybe this, too, is part of the writer’s work.
What do you think?
I have quite a bit of experience in this area that I will be happy to share, Kate! It is possible to adapt.
I embrace the term “self-care” rather than “indolence. We all need more of that!
I think I’m failing at relaxation. Just was crawling under the roses and grasses, weeding a flower bed, when the rain began to fall. Or perhaps the rain conspires to make me indolent?
I think Ken is right. According to Rodale’s “Synonym Finder” (1978), indolence has some negative connotations in the context, I assume, of a way of life (e.g., laziness, slothfulness, dullness, apathy). But, we all need doing nothing physically and mentally periodically as a break from the stress and pressure of creative endeavor, writing or whatever.
Perhaps a better term for what you’re aiming to do is a kind of “contemplation” or “daydreaming” or “imaging”, maybe in the Zen meditation sense of not striving for anything in particular, like “watching”, “heeding”, “musing”, “being lost in thought”, “speculation”. I believe it can’t hurt and may well help one’s writing, a little like the solution to a problem in a story you’re writing that comes unbidden after sleep, a gift of the unconscious .
I LOVE my Rodale’s Synonym Finder…couldn’t live without it. However, this morning I was too indolent to look anything up.
I personally think indolence is a wonderful word – and “activity” – to embrace for the summer. In fact, I’ve always thought it was pretty much the whole point of summer!
I share some of your obsession. That, combined with deadlines and marketing and appearances .. all add up to having very little time to appreciate the beauty of the world. Sit and let sea breezes flow over you. Even go window shopping and embrace summer experiences.
I find myself having to justify any time spend away from my computer. What I loved about being in Maine? Eating seafood overlooking harbor? Exploring flea markets? Going to auctions? Sitting at the rocks at Pemaquid and not thinking about anything but the moment? They’re gone.
Part of that is the difference between being in Maine on vacation and living here. Part of it is having bills to pay. Part is finally being able to do what I’ve always wanted to do.
But I miss taking hours — not to speak of days — off. I try to sneak an hour or two in when I have an excuse. But I always have to justify to myself why I’m not working. (Sometimes justify to my editor!) I feel guilty when illness keeps me from the keyboard.
In the short run, this has its frustrations. In the long run, it may have dangers.
So … enjoy time without your laptop. Those are times to be valued as well as enjoyed. Indolent? Maybe a little. But … why not You deserve that tie, and so does your brain.
I believe it’s vital to refilling the creative well & it improves one’s writing. Enjoy!
I think a lot of what you’re writing about is having the discipline to live in the moment. It’s hard for us planners and list-makers, but it needs to be done at times or you miss a lot of the good stuff in life.
You’re also writing about taking breaks. I finished my last book, which was a month late, in a state of creative exhaustion. As I contemplated writing the synopses for the next two works, I didn’t think I’d ever have an idea again. Or the enthusiasm to follow it.
Life intervened, and I ended up taking almost three months off daily writing. During that time, I wrote both synopses, figured out the major arc for the next three books. Submitted a short story. Plotted the first work. Not really plotting, but more than I’ve ever done before. It came, and it came gradually, but now it’s back.
Wish me luck as I now speed to the finish line on two works due. It may or may not have been a good idea to take time off. But I think I really needed it.
Your post makes me wonder. Do writers retire?
I came across a study of the impact of walking on creativity. In short, subject scored (if I recall correctly) around 85% higher on measures of creativity after walking, compared with after sitting. So the fact that you get ideas while gardening fits. Something about moving your body rather applying seat to seat frees up your mind to move around as well. Maybe you are embracing awareness rather than indolence.
Sadly, my indolence won’t last. Major edits of the fall book arrived this afternoon.
Fun while it lasted. Maybe I’ll try again next week.
Indolence and elegant belong in the same sentence…Always.
OH thanks for that Kate. Am wondering if shorter stints of indolence can refresh? Hope so. Left the computer keys even though my husband looked at my “DO” list and said he doubted we could go anywhere. But I dropped a whole bunch of paper on top of the list, grabbed my fly rod and said, “We’re out a here.” Nothing like a deep green pool between rushing rapids to flush out what needs flushing. And the flash of silver salmon belly just to tease us with a bit of wild world. ….enjoying your travels…thx!
Love this image, Sandy. I haven’t been fishing in years and I used to love it.
Thank you for your blog. Quite uplifting. I have been thinking about my indolent behavior the last few days. I thought I had hit a brick wall with no place to go until my husband put a new twist on my recent inability to put pen to paper. “All those squirrels running around in your head, vying for the same acorn, have crippled your ability to think clearly. Take a few days to smell the roses. It’ll work itself out.” And it has. Indolence? Not such a negative word after all.