Friday, March 23, 2012

When "Adrift" is a Good Thing

No offense to Oliver Wendell Holmes, but I think that sometimes we need to drift. Sometimes it's okay - necessary, even -  to drop the oars, scan the horizon, and again ask ourselves:  where do I want to go?

Because goals change. Life throws us doubts and sickness and children (hopefully not simultaneously), and we need to figure out if all of this paddling is  taking us to a place we still want to be. 

At least for me, the scary, exciting, drift-enducing answer is No. And for the first time in my writing life, I don't have a set goal or plan of action.

Enter:  drifting.

Physicists might refer to this at the static state, although nowadays many would argue that nothing is truly static - there is always slight movement with the potential for more (thank you, physicist husband, for making me feel better in a way that only you could). Spiritualists might call it meditation. But whatever the label, there's something going on while all of this drifting is taking place, and it's Something Good.

Drifting Is A Gentle Way To Let Go 
It's not pleasant to acknowledge that what's been part of life for so long is now in the past. It feels kind of like breaking up with the boyfriend you used to love...but who's become energy-sapping work, sans the spark.

And while I'd love to cork the unpleasant feelings that come along with letting go, and jump full-force into a fling, instead I'll just feel unproductive and impatient. Because while all of this inactivity is somewhat annoying, the quiet has allowed me to hear the whisper of possibilities, the inner voice that's saying, here, try this. And this, and this.

Drifting Opens Our Eyes To New Waters
I've always been better at focusing on a few goals instead of scattering attention over a dozen different ones, but there's something to be said for flexibility. And nothing says "flexibility" like driftin'.

Instead of spending every writing hour marketing and writing articles, I've allowed myself to wander where my interests take me...and ended up wandering into personal essays and blogging. And while I'm not sure about creating a career from these two things, they can certainly enhance it. And at the least, I've gotten back to something I truly enjoy.

Drifting Leads Us To The Things That Matter
What I've found so far while bobbing around in the waters, is the reason I chose writing in the first place. And it wasn't to get published or read by thousands, or to list a famous magazine in my bio (though that would be pretty sweet). It was for the rush of sentences that come at 2 a.m., so exciting that I stay up til 4 thinking about them, and for realizations like the one reached while writing a personal essay, that I only need to believe I'm a writer to make it so.

And for now, those discoveries will have to be enough. While I'd love to fast-forward to the lightbulb moment when I know what's next and what I need to do to get there, I'll continue sitting in this boat, and keep an eye on the horizon, watching for the moment when it's time to start paddling.

(Read a related post by Seth Godin.)


Cheryl said...

Stumbled on your blog while looking for newspaper submission info - great stuff! I subscribed but am not sure if the email link worked, I got an error...

Colleen said...

Hi Cheryl,

I'm glad you found it helpful! It looks like the subscription came through, so you'll be hearing from me again soon :) Hope to hear from you again, too.