A couple of weeks ago, I had the rare opportunity for an unexpected and uninterrupted hour of alone time. Wow, I thought to myself. I can spend some time writing.
Writing time on weeknights doesn’t usually happen for me. When I get home from work, it’s time to get my workout in, and then jump into dinner prep and evening activities. An hour to myself to do whatever just doesn’t usually happen.
So after delivering my daughter to dance and coming home to an empty house and settling in on the couch for some writing time. I sat down, opened my computer, and stared at it. I stared at it for a long time.
I couldn’t think of anything to write. I opened several projects, played around with a few things, looked up some writing prompts, but really had nothing. I felt overwhelmed and exhausted from the day, I was worried about some things at work that were maybe not going as I had hoped, and the weather was super crappy, which made me worry about the roads and the fact that my 18 year old had to drive home from work in freezing rain. The fact that I couldn’t seem to find my past the mental fatigue and use my little nugget of time only frustrated me even more.
So what did I do? Honestly, after trying for a little while, I closed the computer, put my head back on the couch, and closed my eyes. Some days, this writing thing seems to come so easily, and ideas flow faster than I can get the words on the page. But others, it is hard. Stories don’t come together the way I think they will. Characters don’t behave the way they should. Words feel forced, instead of inspired. Last night was definitely a melancholy night, and I’ve learned to lean into them when they happen. To allow myself the feels, and then to move past them. But a case of the melancholies is another post for another day.
I’ve been following Ashley Abramson on Instagram for a few weeks now, and a recent Wednesday writing prompt was to create a fictional conversation between you and a future version of yourself. Here’s a snippet:
She’s got a coffee in hand, Chuck’s low top sneakers, or maybe they are Tom’s, I’m not sure. She’s wearing loose joggers and her favorite hoodie, as always, but she doesn’t look like she’s still in her PJs, even though I always do with that outfit. Somewhere along the line, she learned how to pull it off. Her hair is down and flowing, the silver coming out even more, but it doesn’t look bad or make her look old. If anything, it is elegant. Her face is relaxed, her smile easy. Her gaze is confident but not confrontational. I wish I knew the secret of how she learned that. Maybe I will learn it, too.
“Well, Bec, here I am. Let’s talk about last night.” Last night, I had an hour to myself, unexpected and uninterrupted. I thought I’d spend it writing, but when it came down to trying, I was overwhelmed and exhausted. But she already knows that. She knows, too, that melancholy hits me at random moments, with no real reason, but that it simply happens.
“So first of all, don’t beat yourself up. Maybe last night wasn’t meant to be a night for writing. I’d like to tell you that I’ve learned how to write when the moment hasn’t hit, but I’d be lying.”
“But how do you ever get anything finished if you only write when you feel inspired?”
“Oh, that’s not what I said. Pay attention to the words, they matter. I’m still learning. I still have moments when I don’t have any words, just like every other writer I know. But I have learned how to recognize myself, and when I need to pray instead of worrying. So, let me ask you… Last night when you felt overwhelmed, did you stop and pray? Did you do something proactive to get yourself out of the melancholies? Did you lean in and then get out? Or did you lean in and keep leaning in? Did you lean so far you got stuck?”
She’s right, of course. Instead of putting it away and doing something else to shake my burdens, I began to google agents and publishers, and found myself even more overwhelmed, frustrated and defeated than when I sat down.
“How do you get out of a funk?”
“I pray. I remember that He’s the one that it all comes back to. Not my sadness, not the kids, not the feeling of being stuck. He is everything, and He is enough. And sometimes I have to walk away from the melancholy to shake it, and sometimes I have to move through it to be free of it.”
She’s wise, this future version of me. And I can tell she is confident in God, a trait which I am always hopeful of, but not always sure that I currently have. She knows herself, her own weaknesses, and she relies on Him to be her strength. I wish I had a crystal ball that would show me what is coming in life that gives me this confidence, but then again, I’m not sure I really want to know. I just have to trust that God has a plan for me, because I can see the proof right in front of me.
There’s more, but I’ll leave you with that for now. I’ll admit, this was a difficult exercise. I didn’t want to write an idealized version of myself who has it all figured out, but I also figured that she will hopefully have learned a few things along the way. I often feel like I don’t know what to tell myself in the moment, so talking to my current self from my future self was definitely tricky. But it’s a good exercise. It gives me an idea of where and who I want to be.
How about you? Do you find yourself in the Melancholy Place sometime? How do you get out of that funk? I’d love to hear from you.