Personal Writing,  Writing Retreat Reflections

Hitting the first slump

It’s day 3 of my residency, and I have hit a weird place of pause. Like I’m standing in the center of an X on a gravel road, and there are four ways to go, but actually, none of the ways feel like they will take me anywhere or lead to anything useful. I feel unmoored and untethered.

I’m not judging this feeling; I’m not even particularly bothered by it, but it is an odd sensation to know there’s nothing I have to do today or tomorrow or the next, on and on for 12 more days. I can read my grandparents’ letters or not. I can write or not. I can exercise, eat, bake, take a nap or not.

Yesterday was a productive day. I read a number of letters, I baked two loaves of fig and date whole wheat bread.

Thank you Paul Hollywood for this fabulous recipe!

I took a long (and bonkers windy) walk.

My Anotnia’s got nothing on this wind!

I did a killer 20-minute yoga practice.

I’ve been away from yoga for years; this was hard.

I ate healthy food.

Homemade granola, yogurt and fresh berries.
Apples and almond butter.

I went to bed early, content and tired, and I slept well. And when I woke up this morning, I could tell from the way the light was hitting the hallway wall that the sunrise was incredible. I hurried out of bed and ran to the end of the gravel driveway to catch it.

All in all, it was a useful and productive 24 hours.

But this morning, I sat down to start another visualization meditation, excited for whatever was going to flood my brain the way yesterday’s had. I settled my body and breathed in and out…waiting. And for 5 minutes and 37 seconds nothing happened. I had glimpses of images from yesterday; I got distracted by birds chirping and trucks rattling by. I finally gave up because it felt like I was forcing inspiration, and I know that’s not possible.

I am someone who needs a glimmer of something, the tiniest corner of an idea to give me something to grab on to. And today, I have no glimmers, no lifted corners to peel back to reveal the deeper story beneath.

It’s very clear that, while they are delightful, playful and flirty, my grandparents’ letters are not something I can do anything with, at least not now. I’m reading them with interest but with no feeling of creative spark around them. Today, I’m going to cherry pick 10 letters from the hundreds I haven’t yet read, trusting that if there’s something there I am supposed to find, I will choose the correct letters and that something will jump out at me.

Today I am going to finish Braiding Sweetgrass. I’m going to page through and stop to pay attention to whatever catches my eye from the books I brought. And I am going to sit in quiet sunshine to see if inspiration strikes.

Traveling companions.

And if it doesn’t, I’ll go to bed tonight and start it all over again tomorrow. And sooner or later, as I always used to tell my writing students, my right brain will kick in and ideas will come to me, and progress will be made. This is a game of patience with my creativity. I’ll keep showing up and leaning in because I’m in it to win it. I’m here for the long haul.

Read Day IV: Surviving the slump

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.


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