I’ve been plotting my inaugural Wildernest blog post for the past few days. It had to be brilliant! Inspiring! Pithy! It needed to make readers want to stand up and applaud! Get off their asses and tear after their dreams! Then, yesterday, I spent the day at a cottage by a lake. There is no cell reception at this cottage, so for a whole 5 hours, I was “cut off” from “the world”. My friend went off to pick up some supplies, and I sat in the sun alone, on the deck, doing nothing. Remember nothing? No scrolling through Instagram. No answering emails. Instead, I meditated. I watched the dog sniff at leaves. I started to notice the sound of wind picking up and slowing down, and the sensation of the sun on my face, and the thing I always feel, eventually, when I don’t have access to an internet connection: relief. Which, if you think about it, is kind of insane. What’s more insane is that I only recognize this feeling because I’ve been lucky enough to have it forced on me. As a meditator, I’ve been on silent retreats where we are also not allowed to read, or, obviously, be online. Having “nothing to do” but come face to face with the voices in my head are tough for the first 3 days. But after that, waking up in the morning and knowing that I’m not going to be assaulted with information (an assault I bring on myself by having a smart phone at the end of my arm), I feel a delicious sense of peace. At a retreat center in New Zealand, where even if we weren’t on retreat, we only got cell phone reception standing next to an apple blossom tree on a hill, I slept in a little cabin that looked over a valley. In the morning I would go out onto my porch, and take in this view: Which, let’s be honest, I’d probably miss if I’d had a phone next to me. Later in my travels, I ended up on a tiny island in Turkey where there are no roads, 2 restaurants, and about 40 houses. My goal was to spend a few days writing in blissful silence, taking breaks to go swim in the Mediterranean (I know). My first morning there, I woke up feeling utterly exhausted, and couldn’t muster the juice to do anything. From an outsider’s point of view, the idea of being on a car-less island in the Mediterranean and not taking time off is plain crazy. But as any freelancer or creative knows, stepping away from the computer and not using every minute to make or hustle or both is hard. We are brutal to ourselves. We are relentless. And our society encourages this, and so does our culture of constant connectedness. When I teach writing, I’m the first person to quote William Faulkner, who said, “I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.” But there is discipline, and there is listening to the little voice within. The voice that says “I’m tired.” The voice that says, “I need a break.” We can’t run a marathon without sustenance. We can’t create when our brains our drained and our spirits are fried. On that island in Turkey, I listened to that voice. I took a day off, and then knew I needed two. I decided to trust my gut for once, and let it tell me when I was ready to work again. It only took 3 days. And reading books, and watching sunsets, and doing those other things we neglect in favor of our phones and our frantic race towards “success”. So this is what I have to say in my first Wildernest blog post: if you’re feeling this way right now, forget inspiration. Forget the dream. Get ON your ass. Read some books. Watch some movies. Ask yourself what the kindest thing you can do for yourself is, and do that for as long as you need it. Trust that little voice. Whether it takes a day or 3 weeks or longer, it will tell you when you’re ready to get back to work. And it won’t be because of the pressure to succeed. It’ll be because you’re excited to start again.
Natalie is one of Wildernest’s storytellers and punctuation nerds. She’s also an author, podcaster, and award-winning scriptwriter.