319. Slumps, Rolls, and the Good Life

I wrote 315 articles in about 500 days, rarely pausing for more than two days. But I’ve just finished about two weeks during which I didn’t write any articles, and then 24 hours during which I wrote four. If I were taking my roles as columnist and author more seriously, the two week gap would have worried me more than it did. But I’m in a very comfortable position: my retirement income pays my bills, and my budget is working. If I choose to write or teach, I’m doing it because I want to. And if school’s out and nothing inspires me to write, I can go for a roll in the woods.
Most of you don’t have that luxury. And so you do what you can to get through the day. Maybe your days are mostly inspiring, maybe not. If your vocation or avocation requires creativity, you rely on well-timed inspirations, you find ways to make inspiration happen, or you try to fake it. And if you’re a teacher who’s feeling uninspired, you’re probably passing on some of that feeling to the children you teach.
After my two-week “vacation,” I was ready to write again, and if I write at my present pace (which probably won’t happen), I’ll quickly make up for lost time. I’m convinced that my two-week “slump” and my 24-hour “roll” were both due to the lack of pressure. Nobody is telling me to hurry up and write. And even if they did, I wouldn’t pay much attention.
As a magazine editor, I try to get other people to meet a deadline. My approach is to apply as little pressure as possible. Part of my reason is that all of the writers are volunteers; they write because they have things they want to express. The deadlines are real (I tried calling them “lifelines,” but it didn’t fool anybody); a paid person turns our material into a magazine, and has a schedule she must follow. But another part of my reason is my belief that the best results come from the absence of external pressure.
I don’t know exactly how this belief can be applied to school. Teachers have to be “on” whether or not they really feel inspired. And children are supposed to write when the teacher says, “Write,” draw when the teacher says, “Draw,” and so on. The six hours most children spend in school, like the eight hours most adults spend at work, are the hours during which they’re supposed to do what they do. And do it well.
Still, I hope that it’s possible to fit in some time to let your muses do their things. You shouldn’t have to wait until you retire to do the important work you were meant to do. And as much as possible, children should be freed to create, not forced to create. I know that’s easy for me to say. But I’ve done a lot of getting and spending, so I do have something to compare this good life to. And I recommend that you try to be a little easier on yourself.

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