I love the quiet time between Christmas and New Year. The quieter, the fewer plans, the fewer places to be the better. But not because I don’t want to do anything, there’s loads I want to do, it just tends to happen alone and quietly. Some of it is actual and some of it is noticing, paying attention to what else is going on, in me as much as everywhere else.
I’m a doer. I’m happy to be a doer. On Christmas Day I was sitting at a gorgeous dinner of many friends and talking to a dear friend of well over 30 years (who happens to be born a day earlier than me) about how we’re both the kind of people who find out what we think as we say it. I know that I speak to understand, do to experience, I’m almost always in action, making, doing, creating, engaging. My daily life is full of doing and has been since I was a small child.
I like doing. I’m glad to make, happy to create and to co-create. I came to writing as an improviser, which is all about being in the present and building on it (with others or alone) to make the next step, take the next step. For many years – and especially since my two cancers – I have felt a pressure to underplay my desire to create, to achieve, to do. People tell me to take time off, to rest, to do less. They say this A LOT. Sometimes people talk about my ‘prolific’ writing – as if a) prolific is a bad thing, and b) 16 novels in almost 25 years is prolific. It really isn’t.
I understand that time not-doing, or at least not-actively-doing is useful. Fallow time (thank you Rajni Shah) can be of value. Out of not-doing or less-doing can grow new thinking, new desires, new points of action. But for me, two or three days of not-doing is plenty. Loads. I’m keen to be making, creating, devising. I want to get back to whatever work-in-progress I have on the go and find out what happens next by writing what happens next. I’m currently writing a first draft – this is how I do it, I write the next thing, then the next thing. The edit is slightly different and I tend to edit a lot, but basically it’s just one thing after another, one step at a time.
So, right now, in this quiet time, where there are hardly any emails and the Fun Palaces office is officially ‘closed’ (though never really, there is always social media!) I’m working. Working on the first draft of Book 17. Making notes to revise a short story. Yoga-ing. Chanting. Meditating. Cooking. And beneath those actions I’m letting an idea take form – often new things grow while I’m doing. This is something I think is going to grow for me over the next few years. I don’t quite know where it will take me or what it’s going to turn into* but I’m beginning some first steps in January and I can feel it starting to create itself, step by step. And in this quiet time of year, a quiet I have chosen and welcome, I find it easier to recognise those steps for what they are, to notice that along with the things I have no control over, some steps are clear choices.
Here’s to the others of you who are doing right now. It’s ok, my fellow doers, we don’t have to feel bad that we’re not resting or partying or playing or holidaying. If you’re being true to who you are, then that’s just fine. Enjoy it. Quiet times are great for doing. Not everything happens when it’s ‘supposed’ to. Sometimes daffodils bloom on Christmas Eve. This one did.
*I didn’t know what Fun Palaces would be when I called the first session that led to it back in 2013 either. I didn’t know I was writing a book when I started my first one, I had no idea what it would become, all I knew was that I was writing. I don’t know where I’m headed most of the time – I find it tends to show itself in the doing.
Hmmm, I don’t think I’ve fully understood this in myself before you articulated it, I know I need energetic exercise each day (swimming or off road walking), as well as gentle walking and yoga. I need to meditate and pray each day. And I have to make music too. And I actually enjoy working on my OU degree, or learning to code. I do have to be doing, but it is not a social doing, as you say it is primarily at home alone. I keep thinking I need to cut back, but actually I find it restful to do things…. hmm, maybe I need to give myself persmission to do things!
yes Jen, I think we doers are under-served by a culture that keeps telling us stop/rest/listen – for some of us those things happen while as well as apart from doing.
I enjoyed reading this. I’m always writing bits and bobs, painting, drawing, always learning new things, skills. Always cramming things in around working and parenting. Almost always things that involve me being alone. I sometimes wonder if my behaviour comes from an inate dissatisfaction. But no, I think you are right, it’s meditative. The creating, building, learning, researching, is rejuvinating and thoroughly restful. And all the different strands of activity do seem to loop back into, feed and inform the others … eventually!
yes, I think they do all join up – and that’s why it’s ok to see doing as a meditation in itself.
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I am not a doer and have to constantly fight the perception of others that I might be lazy. I have many friends who are doers, including my wife, and sometimes I envy them although mainly because then I would fit in lol. However much I understand that I am intrinsically not , and am content with that, I cant help but want to be a doer sometimes!(I now feel the need to explain that i do DO stuff lol…uh oh…I work, have raised a family, socialise, participate in life, am a DRM role model, so am not comatose….but I am still not a doer 🙂
weird, isn’t it, Sarah? you feel a perception that you might be lazy, as a doer, I feel a perception that people think I do too much/don’t relax enough. imagine if we could all just do/not-do as pleased us and know that others had no thoughts about it at all … of course, that would take each of us not judging others (!) but maybe we’ll get there one day …
maybe it’s that human desire to measure ourselves (often against others) just to quantify and qualify our place in life and to ‘check’ that all is okay That tiny, niggly question of ‘have we got it right?’. I’m as guilty as anyone of telling doers to relax more. I wonder if that’s more to do with me than them?! As you say, one day…
yes, when people tell me to slow down, I usually think its about them not me. (and then worry that maybe I SHOULD slow down anyway …)