A little after one in the morning, I woke from a dream in which I had just given birth to eight babies. In the manner of dreams, of course, I had no physical symptoms of recent birth, but all the same I sat there in a state of deep stress as I tried to figure out how I was going to nourish all these children. I just picked the first one who was awake and nursed her, then picked another one, and by the time I was finished with him, I knew very well I could not take care of all these babies.
There was a lot more to that dream, but that’s the relevant part. Because unlike most vivid, weird dreams, I woke up knowing exactly what my subconscious was trying to tell me: I’m spread too thin.
Being a jack-of-all-writing-trades usually works in my favor. If I’m feeling blocked or uninspired on the fiction front, I always have a column or a feature article to keep me busy, and of course there is always music. I never feel as energized after writing time as I do when I leave the piano having accomplished something.
Most of the time, I am focused and efficient. But ever since we got home from Disney, I have felt thoroughly drained of creative energy. No matter what area I contemplate, there seems to be nothing left to offer.
And here’s the thing: I know it’s not true. The short story I’m locked in mortal combat with is potentially the best thing I’ve ever written. The novel I worked on for a month (to the tune of 26,181 words, yippee-ki-ay) has a general shape; I know where it’s going and it’s fun and potentially even moving. And I have two flute projects underway that have interested parties waiting for me to finish them.
I just don’t know where to focus my energy, because nothing is calling to me.
Well, that’s not actually entirely true. The musical muse has been asking for attention for quite a while, but I kept having to put her off because of NaNo. Along with everything else. Self-publish pre-existing music? Finish that short story? Do some promotion for my books? Where do I even begin?
I know what has to happen. I have to choose one area to focus my energies and set other things aside for a while. But I don’t like leaving things half-done. I like being able to cross things off the list. To see, on my work log, words like “submitted” and “finish” and “send.”
I suppose it’s appropriate to find myself in this unsettled, uncertain place during Advent. Advent is about seeking and recognizing all that is unfinished in ourselves and in the world. Searching our souls to see where we fall short, and trying to reshape our attitudes and our hearts so we’re ready to receive the gift God sent so long ago and continues to send every day of our lives. Receive it and reflect it back outward.
“Be patient with all that is unfinished in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, liked locked rooms and like books written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then, gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke