Chop wood, carry water, tippy-tap on the keyboard

Storm’s rolling in.
Last night I was out mucking stalls, changing the horses’ bedding, and making sure they had enough water. This morning I carried armload after armload of firewood into the house (yes, we have central heat, but who doesn’t love a roaring fire in the middle of a snowstorm?). Later today I’ll probably shovel out the driveway so I can get my daughter to school on time tomorrow morning, even though I’m hoping for a snow day.
I do these things for the same reason people complete any chores: They need to be done.
Chores also make me think about how serious writers—serious artists of all stripes—approach our careers. We show up and do the work. It’s really that simple. No doubt Baryshnikov had days when didn’t feel like showing up at the studio. But aren’t we grateful that he fought through the blahs? Mozart and Verdi probably would have rather stayed in bed some mornings than pick up their composing quills. But pick up those quills they did, and see how the world has benefited from their glorious musical contributions and those of their colleagues.
But if the greats struggled with their own resistance to their art, how much more is that the case for the rest of us, the regular creative folks trying to start, or rekindle, or maintain the momentum of a writing career? I regularly hear from my MFA students about how they need to just find a way to finish that novel, or that screenplay, or that collection of poems or short stories. But they don’t know how they’re ever going to finish. They have small children to raise, after all. They have jobs in addition to school. They lack confidence and are overwhelmed by the odds of ever being published. Maybe they struggle with depression, or anxiety, or physical conditions that make following a regular schedule difficult. These things are legitimate. Artists have struggled with all of them throughout human history. And yet, as Natalie Goldberg writes in her wonderful book Writing Down the Bones, “Think of writing as though it were breathing. Just because you have to plant a garden or take the subway or teach a class, you don’t stop inhaling and exhaling. That’s how basic writing is, too.”
So, chop that wood, writers. Carry that water. Tippy-tap on that keyboard. And don’t forget to breathe. You’ve got this.
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