Phases and cycles

Today, I wrote fiction for the first time in eight months. And now I’m writing here for the first time in…far longer. This fallow phase has been a necessary refresh, but now that the cycle tips back around I can admit to the bone-deep worry that maybe my writing wouldn’t come back this time.

Writing grew harder–so much harder–towards the end of 2021 as infant needs grew more complex and draining. Then came the overturn of Roe vs. Wade in the spring of 2022 and the renewed onslaught against the bodily autonomy of anyone with a uterus in the US. Something had to give, so I let blogging go to focus on fiction–because stories are where the bulk of my power to change the world lies. Then my older kid started school last fall.

I’d always imagined that having a kid in school would give me more time, not less. Someone should have warned me. Seriously, WHY DID NO ONE WARN ME?!

Now here we are, 103 days into 2023. My first indicator that the fallow period was ending and I would sooner-than-later be writing again was reading. I read 35 books in 2022. (For perspective: even in 2020 and 2021 I managed upwards of 50.) This year? I just finished my 95th book.

Audiobooks are magic, I tell you. MAGIC. They give me something to focus on during car rides or when I’m nursing the toddler or the many, many times in the day that the kids need me physically present but my brain would otherwise try to eat itself with all the other things I need or want to be doing.

Anyway. 95 books in 103 days. Reading binges tend to herald the end of the resting phase of my creative cycle, but I’m not sure I’ve ever had one quite this intense and sustained.

And since I’ve gone on this carousel ride many times in 37 years and I was impatient to get back to writing, I put myself in the way of things that have helped spark writing before. I rejoined my online critique group. Briefly, because I also auditioned for a play for the first time in three years (which deserves its own post and was yet another step in reclaiming my writing). I accepted an invitation to a local, in-person writing group.

And all this while, the days have been getting longer and warmer. While I type this, I’m sitting in the door that leads from our kitchen out onto the porch while my toddler plays in the water table. Now that he’s two, I’m even starting to feel more like myself instead of a kind of extension of his wants and needs and demands. It’s a good feeling. Like remembering to breathe after holding my breath too long.

Close-up of a silver metal earring of a moth and phases of the moon, hanging from my/a brown-haired white woman's ear.
Moon phases and new earrings!

Most life-things are cyclic.

Though I can’t remember having such a dramatic return to writing before. Yesterday, I kept feeling like I was drifting off into dreams while wide awake. (Dreams are where my subconscious plays with story elements.) I drove right past the turn off for my older kid’s ballet class. Then last night while trying to fall asleep, I came up with the opening for a novella that’s been on my mind for years. That was all I could think about driving to and from school drop off this morning. I’d almost forgotten the way it feels when a story catches me up so strongly.

Of course, with story writing comes PROCRASTINATION. I wrote two sentences then messaged a friend, cleaned some in the kitchen, and started this post. I thought procrastination was a constant, but now I’m not so sure!

One day does not make a habit, but at least now I know I haven’t just stopped. That’s the comforting thing about cycles. It’s too early to know if I’m fully back yet, but whether it’s next week or next month or next year, I know I will be.

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