Monday, February 16, 2015

On Being a Writer: Rest

I’ve invented a word: “misculturalized.” It describes being born, raised and living in one culture when you’re probably better adapted to another culture. And the culture I should have been raised in? The one that celebrates naps. Spain. Mexico. Argentina.

How could I have been born in United States, the country that hates – hates – naps? Think of everything we miss when we succumb to temptation and take a nap: getting work done; staying busy, looking like we’re staying busy; and rest.


While I love naps, I have a hard time with the word rest. And rest from writing? Can’t happen. It’s too much of who I am. At least that’s the excuse I make. To myself.

And yet.

We’ve several beach vacations – Gulf Shores and nearby Orange Beach. Some with kids, and once empty nest. On the empty nest beach vacation, I’d wake early each morning, walk down to the beach, rent my umbrella and chair, and sit, reading. To be honest, it was a project – the second time I had read the unabridged version of Don Quixote. And I was doing it because my high school English teacher who taught our class the novel said you should read it three times in your life – when you’re young, when you’re middle-aged, and when you’re old.

Sitting there on the beach each morning, listening to the sounds of the waves and birds, feeling the heart, smelling the salt of the gulf, I read the Cervantes classic. And it seemed like a very different book than the one I read when I was 17.

Even though I was technically doing something, it was still rest. Sitting for long stretches of time and reading, finding myself transported to Spain in the late 1500s, and tilting at windmills, was restful.

It was the kind of experience Ann Kroeker describes in On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts (co-authored with Charity Craig). She finally convinces herself to go with her kids to a family camp in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and she finds herself reading and resting.

“At camp,” she writes, “I sat a lot, often with a book but just as often with nothing. I sat at a picnic table. I sat in an Adirondack chair. I sat on a beach towel on the sand, on a couch in the lodge, and in a folding chair by the calm, cold water of Lake Huron.” She did go jogging one morning.

What she was doing was engaging in mental rest. We have to take time to let our minds rest and regenerate.

Our minds, like our bodies, need a Sabbath.

For the past several weeks, I’ve been discussing chapters of On Being a Writer by Kroeker and Craig. This chapter is entitled “Rest.” There’s one chapter left, and I’ll discuss it next week.

Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Sandra Heska King said...

I've never read Don Quixote (that I remember.) But I'm pretty good at rest--sometimes.

Are those your shoes? ;)

Glynn said...

No, they're not my shoes. Way too conservative for me. :)

Anne Peterson said...

Enjoyed your post. Mental rest. We all need it, but sometimes we don't take it. Worry is the enemy of rest. Worry tells you, "you can't rest, you've got to solve this."

nancy marie davis said...

I find a good book to be restful as well. It must be the thing about being transported from the present and the self. Let's see, there was a quote i read the other day... it was something about reading a book in bed...and being between dream and sleep.