After commiserating with my dear friend and YA author, Erin Dionne, earlier this week about balancing work, family life, and a writing career, she sent me a link for an exercise by writer Cheryl Renee Herbsman. I thought it was a good one, so I’m going to modify it and share it here.
This exercise was inspired by Mary Oliver’s poem "Messenger," which beings with the line “My work is loving the world.”
Read the poem, then ask yourself a pared-down version of the first line, “What is my work?”
It is meant to be a soulful question, much like what gives me joy or what is my purpose? But asking questions like this always helps me to center myself. It is a constant struggle to try to balance all those have-to responsibilities against what I really want to do, which is write. Sometimes I need a reminder about what's most important to me.
Here is the exercise (my interpretation):
1. Find a quiet spot where you won't be disturbed about 20 minutes.
2. Get quiet inside. Breathe. Listen to the birds outside your window or listen to the silence or listen to music if that inspires but doesn't distract you. Don't skip this step. If you don't get quiet inside you won't be able to hear the quiet voice that has the answers.
3. Write at the top of the page: What is my work?
4. Start writing. Even if you don't know what to write about, write anyway. If it helps, you can start by writing about what your work isn't.
5. Ignore the critical voice in your head that says this is stupid. That voice is wrong.
I’m waiting for a quiet moment to try this. But when I do, I may—or may not—share my results. I’d rather act on them and tell you about it later.
Read Cheryl's original post.