Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Nothing Somethings

Posted by: Joshua Roots
I went duck hunting over Christmas vacation, which, thanks to a warm spell up north, basically translated to sitting in a blind and not doing much of anything.

For the record, I’m not much of a hunter, but each Christmas my father-in-law invites me on a duck hunt. The first time it happened, I was excited. Having grown up in the Nintendo Generation, I fully expected to blast swarms of ducks with an orange pistol and yell at a dog that’d laugh at me when I missed.

In reality, the event turned out to be a lot of waiting. Hours of it. Same the next year. And the next.

To date, we’ve yet to shoot a single duck. Instead, we always wind up sitting in the blind, listening intently over the snapping of twigs or rustling of leaves for the unmistakable squawk of a duck. Which seems to never happen.

My father-in-law always apologizes for the lack of action, but I love it.

For me, “duck hunting” isn’t about the prize, but the process. I love getting up before the sun, the long drive to the field of harvested cotton, and the bite of cold morning air on my face as we walk through the rows of shin-high stalks. I love the soft splash of near-freezing water around our knees as we wade out to the blind. I love the creak of the metal bench and the smell of dried brush surrounding us.

But most of all, I love the stillness.

There’s something inherently peaceful in the nothingness of a cold December morning. Something genuinely pure that’s hard to remember when cell phones ping constantly or commercials shout for your attention and money. Living in the DC metro area, there’s an added layer of tension due to traffic. Day in and day out it’s noise and movement. A constant demand for your time and a feeling that you should be doing something, ANYTHING, because doing nothing is a waste of your potential.

Or, as many writers know it: You Should Be Writing.

At some point, every writer experiences YSBW. The sense of dread or guilt that drives us to sit at our keyboards and hammer out a daily word count. That’s not a bad thing, mind you. Without that motivation, a lot of writers (myself included) would easily get distracted by something shiny on the Internet. When I’m in Full Go Mode, I set a fairly strict writing goal and make every effort to stick to it. Even if that means ignoring social media for a while. 

But life is all about balance. Spend too much time in that routine you run the risk of burn out. You hit a point where the words become a struggle and you want to step away to do nothing for a little while. But you feel guilty because YSBW.

Sitting in that blind, all I have is nothing.

It’s in those moments of stillness, when the world is quiet, that my brain is able to spool down. I literally can’t write, so there’s no choice but to sit and listen to the world around me. To enjoy the freedom of letting my mind roam. And when everything goes still, when I finally allow myself to lean into the nothingness, that’s when the creative juices begin flowing. More often than not, that’s when something pops up. An idea, a line, a character. A little something that may be a spark for something bigger down the road.

But sometimes it’s just the knowledge that a few hours with my own thoughts won’t cause my writing career to become a burning crater. That it’s okay to enjoy doing nothing.

Everyone is different, so what works for me might not work for you. But the one constant throughout the equation of writing is that you, as an author, are allowed Me Time. There are certainly moments when YSBW, but there are also moments when you need to spool down.

More important, you deserve to.

Maybe that means a cup of coffee by yourself before the rest of the house wakes up or maybe it means a few minutes walking alone. Maybe it’s a glass of wine on the deck or a few extra minutes between your alarm and when you haul yourself out of bed. Whatever you choose, be willing to allow yourself those empty moments because that’s when you might just find something you didn’t know you needed.


Even if that something is, in fact, nothing. 







Bio:


Joshua Roots is a car enthusiast, beekeeper, and storyteller. He enjoys singing with his a cappella chorus, golf, and all facets of Sci-Fi/Fantasy. He's still waiting for his acceptance letter to Hogwarts and Rogue Squadron. He and his wife will talk your ear off about their bees if you let them.

His Urban Fantasy series, The Shifter Chronicles, is available wherever digital books are sold.

He may or may not be up to nothing at the moment....






2 comments:

  1. Great post! One of my resolutions for 2016 was to do more nothing. It's a seriously underrated activity.

    ReplyDelete

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