Oxygen Masks

The cholla are both flowering and fruiting now – a brilliant combination of yellow and this purple-pink that can look scarlet from a distance.

Quite the show.

Last night Kerry and I were talking about how making progress on the writing can make or break your day. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it can be astonishing how much of a difference getting the writing in can make.

She had slunk home from a grueling day at work. Her job involves people in crisis, so it’s more emotionally demanding than, say, mine. She said she was in a mood of deepest blue, but had to try to work on her revisions anyway. I gave her the virtual pep talk and she disappeared for a while.

When she came back a bit later, having hit her page goal, her mood had entirely shifted. Everything suddenly looked better. She felt ready to go spend time with family who needed her emotional support.

“I use the analogy with my patients of the airplane, where you put on your own oxygen mask before assisting another,” she told me.

Sometimes I think this is mainly true of writers. I also saw this guest blog post by D.J. Morel yesterday. (This is a bit of a departure for the Pimp My Novel blog, which is usually about the marketing end of publishing and well worth following. Clearly I liked this guest post, too.) He talks about choosing the day job that allows you to write. This line struck me:

When I realized that I was screaming at the walls of my house for a half hour after coming home each night, I knew it was enough. I quit, and didn’t come to understand how unhappy it all had made me until many months down the road. If you are indeed a writer, you can run away from writing, but it’ll only come and find you.

But one of my favorite quotes for a very long time now is this one by Mark Rutherford:

There is in each of us an upwelling spring of life, energy, love, whatever you like to call it. If a course is not cut for it, it turns the ground around it into a swamp.

(It turns out I quoted this before on the blog, but it was back in January ’09, so I hope you’ll forgive me the repeat.)

He very carefully does not ascribe this phenomenon only to writers, though he was a novelist. I suspect we all have this, the upwelling spring that keeps us alive, engaged and vital. The Buddhists say each of us has one thing that we do better than anyone else in existence and that life is a journey to discover what that is.

Unfortunately it’s all too easy not to cut a course for the upwelling spring. Daily life piles up, gradually blocking the way. Often we don’t notice until there’s a flood and we’re standing in a boggy mess as far as the eye can see.

What to do then?

Put on your oxygen mask and take a deep breath. The rest will sort itself out.

5 Replies to “Oxygen Masks”

  1. Your friend Kerry reminds me of my former 17 year career as a social worker working with teens – emotionally draining each and every day. I love her wisdom – "put on your own oxygen mask before assisting another". Now I write and am happier for it.

    Love your post.

    Melody

  2. Thanks Melody – Kerry is very wise. It's a good thing for all of us to remember.

    Gabi – you commented! Hooray! And yes, it was good for me to think about this today. That regardless of all the rest of the business, the crucial part is what the writing process does for us internally.

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