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Being Present

I recently made the decision to send the novel I’m writing to a developmental editor, who will return my marked up manuscript to me in April. Yes, you heard me right. And so begins a slowed down period that I know I need but have been unwilling, until now, to initiate. This is because I’m a kinetic, scheduled person, who thrives on productivity – a life model that enables me to get stuff done, even though it doesn’t engender much time for relaxation and reflection. Do hummingbirds have time for idle, sedentary pursuits?

Yes, I tell myself. This quieter time will be good for me, for my writing. I can think about the novel I want to write after this one. Reflection, after all, is what some writers practice with regularity. Mohsin Hamid, the author of Exit West, recently spoke at Connecticut College about his process. He said many authors look at writing a book like climbing a mountain. But he sees it like digging a hole. “And then I just hang around and wait for it to fill up.” Instead of doing, he is being.

I love the idea of being. But I’ve been doing for almost six decades. Can I turn it off? Where’s the master switch? The switch is mental, of course, not physical. I don’t need to strap 15-pound weights to my wrists and ankles to slow myself down; I need to clear my mind. It’s filled with extraneous stuff, like a grandmother’s attic. Maybe I can have a tag sale! Or, I can restart my abandoned yoga practice and mindful meditation. And I can explore other methods of focusing on the moment, of being present.

It won’t be easy, even though I know it’s right – this being thing. Appreciating my small part of the planet; showing gratitude for my good fortune; and allowing life to come to me, rather than chasing after it will help me see what I’ve been missing, as well as write a better book. But can I start tomorrow? I’ve got to get to the grocery store.

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