Writing Through Burn-Out

Last week I wrote about realizing that I've worn my creative self down so much over the past five years that I'm "ground to dust," as a friend put it. It's not that I'm sick of writing; I'm just sick of doing the sort of writing I get paid for. That writing feels like drudgery to me right now. It doesn't refill my creative well or my spirit. 

So as I work on the remaining assignments I've promised I'll finish, I've been thinking about why I write and what I love. (Which would include the double rainbow in the photo above that graced my view last night–without the rain we need, but still a glorious sight.)

Tonight, as I was looking up a quote from my memoir, Walking Nature Home, for a friend, I came across this passage that sums up the kind of writing that does feed my spirit: 

Our truest and most compelling writing comes from deep within, conscious or unconscious knowledge that is innately part of who we are. For me that is the set of relationships that make up what we call nature: who sleeps with whom, who eats whom, who cooperates and competes, and who cannot survive without whom. I know these stories both from the rigorous observation of field ecology and the experience of intimacy in my kinship with other species. –Walking Nature Home

It is that intimate kinship with other species that sustains me these days. Not that the human community isn't wonderful too. But right now the company of other species is more restful–equally fascinating and nurturing, without being quite so demanding as people can be.

For example, here two photos of wildflowers I shot this evening in the restored mountain prairie that is beginning to flourish in my post-industrial-dump yard. Watching these plants re-colonize a very-much-altered landscape they clearly still recognize and embrace brings me a great deal of reassurance and joy. 

The rough blazing-star at the foot of my front steps has dozens of flowers open this evening. Notice the tiny hunting spider with front legs extended on the middle flower of this group, waiting patiently to catch one of the small flies that pollinate these starry blossoms.

And here's wholeleaf indian paintbrush, one of my favorite wildflowers because it won't just sprout anywhere–it only grows in the presence of two other native species, blue grama grass and fringed sage, with whom the paintbrush has close relationships.. A hummingbird was feeding at this cluster of flowers before I shot the photo (I wasn't quick enough to catch the hummer). 

That these native plants can return to this blighted site, it seems to me, that they sprout from the seeds I carefully spread, grow, bloom, and reweave the relationships with other species that make a healthy prairie community, is evidence that we can restore this beleaguered earth. Bit by bit, day by day. 

If these wildflowers can flourish in a place that was for a century an informal railroad-track-side dump; if their lives and the relationships they sustain can return the beauty of this land, my thinking goes, I too can revive and crawl out of this deep slump of the soul, this weariness to the bone. 

I just need to remember to go outside. To watch the community of the land go about its exquisitely complicated business, full of interweavings and interdependencies, right out my front door. 

Those wildflowers are the voices I want to listen to and the stories I want to write. They are the metaphorical pots of gold at the end of the double-rainbow in my heart, the tangerine sunset that fills me with awe. 

When I begin telling these stories, I believe my delight in playing with words and narrative, with articulating the love I feel for this glorious blue planet–battered as it may be–will return full force. 

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