Push Back

There’s a question I’m not sure if I have an answer to.

When Life brings us challenges, like waves that keep crashing down upon us, how do we keep our writing selves in tact?  When other, seemingly more pressing circumstances keep bubbling up, and don’t seem to die down, how do we stay true to who we believe we are meant to me?

If we’re a sandcastle by the beach, and we keep getting crushed as each new wave comes in, the easy answer would be to just relocate the castle.  Generally that seems to be people’s obvious answer, but it isn’t practical. As much as we try to run away from real life, it keeps following us, because at some point we have to realize that life attached to us. It is us. There is no relocating the castle, because we are the castle, not the kid that made us…

Ok, ok…  I think I’m starting to get a little metaphor fatigue.  You too?

Okay then.  Let’s skip the metaphors for now.  Here’s the deal:  we’re stuck in a rut that seems to want to force us away from our writing, and the more we move toward our writing and enjoy it, the rut seems to grow bigger and bigger. It appears as if something is pushing us back from the very thing that we love.  It’s what I’m going to call a “Push Back.” I’m sure it doesn’t just happen to writers, but anyone trying to reach for their dreams from a starting point that was less than privileged, a beginning that was lacking in fast track opportunities.

It’s when we are making a positive step forward. We congratulate ourselves on making the writing schedule, following it, being responsible to ourselves and our craft, being enthusiastic about the work, gathering inspiration, building up support, motivating ourselves, caring for ourselves during our failures, writing the work itself and SHOOOOOP!

Push Back.

There’s the deadline at work you HAVE to meet. That family member you HAVE to attend to.  That heartbreak you MUST wallow in. Maybe, like many in this economy, it’s the job you just lost and the new job you’re struggling to FIND AND GET.  It’s the current LOAD you must BEAR. The BURDEN that is far more pressing and crucial than the novel you are writing, that short story you are editing, that poem you are perfecting.

You’re in it. You can’t relocate. It’s your life. You have to move through it. Moving above or under isn’t really an option anymore. But in order to move through it, the situation seems to be saying that you may have to give up what you really want, at least for a while because this other thing, the current BURDEN, it needs your attention, we’ll get to that (your passion) later.

Push Back.

I’m afraid I am not wise enough to have an answer to how to deal with this yet. I don’t know really how we completely blast through Push Back, or whether the question is even plausible. We all have our own version of Push Back, and I’m afraid any solution might prove to be too general.

The best thing I know how to do is to write about it, and maybe leave the real answers to someone out there wiser than I.

Here are some things that seem to help in the meantime:

  • Exercise. First thing in the morning a run, or some push ups will start the day off great. My body feels stronger and energized, I feel more motivated. It makes me feel good about myself, and that’s always helpful no matter what is happening.
  • Eat Well. Unlike when I spoke of how to motivate ourselves when writing, I think that  a red velvet cupcake may make us feel worse during a Push Back.  Maybe its all the sweetness that lingers after and is ironic against the bitterness of real life pressure.  What helps us more than sweets is when we eat healthy food, food that nourishes us like fruits or vegetables, or a nice green tea to calm the stomach. Our body already has enough stress to deal with, so release some of its load by giving your body the vitamins and minerals it needs.  You need to feel strong and balanced when dealing with a Push Back, so eat your greens and TiVo “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.”
  • Meditation. A nice walk in the local park. (There’s a secret one that’s become my sanctuary.) I also use breathing exercises that Dr. Joan Borysenko recommends in her book Minding the Body, Mending the Mind.  They have been very helpful.  I also include the “fully body scan” that John Kabit-Zinn recommends in his book Full Catastrophe Living. Both meditation exercises sharpen my mind, make me feel more refreshed and relax me.
  • No News. When you are dealing with Push Back, your current burden is all the news you need, why scare yourself up more with the Shock and Awe of modern media? Admit it to yourself, the news makes you sick. That’s because it is a toxin. To focus on negativity (disasters, worst-case-scenarios, habitually exploding little problems into exponential catastrophes) on a constant basis would be a sign of Depression in a human being, why can’t we diagnose the News with the same malady? You need time away from this sick entity while you are dealing with Push Back. So do yourself some good. Flick off the television, unsubscribe from the Times, save that change for a rainy day. You need peace.
  • Courage Potential. I am working on a theory that fear is simply at one end of the courage spectrum. If we are afraid then we should be reassured, because it means we have a great potential to be courageous. As I mentioned in my previous post “Doubt,” I don’t think we can really get rid of fear, but we can keep it in its dormant state by increasingly tapping into our courage potential. You can practice this by giving yourself little courageous steps that are totally doable, like climbing a big tree, or jumping off a huge rock, or contacting that special someone you have a crush on, or if you are in a relationship, doing something daring together, or otherwise standing up for yourself in little ways.  The hope is that these little courageous steps bring you more confidence and thus lead to bigger even more courageous steps. I recommend hiking as a good start. A steep hike is always exhilarating, it also gives you a sense of adventure. When I finish a hike I always feel a lot more braver and more confident in my competence. If I can beat the mountain, I feel more capable of beating the Push Back.
  • Write. I always mention this at the end of my lists, because sometimes writers (including me) forget that writing can really move us through the current rut in our lives. When I deal with Push Back, I usually run straight to poetry. A poem doesn’t have to be perfect, it can be incredibly plain and messy and in this way a poem can more easily and directly keep me whole amidst the problem.

It seems what needs to be done is to create a fortress to protect our little castle on the shore of life’s beach. (I know, I know, I promised to stop with the metaphors, but I lied didn’t I? But I cant’ help it. I’m a writer. Don’t judge me.) The above tips might help us build a fortress against the Push Back but I tell you its a whole lot of work to maintain this fortress against an approaching wave. I hesitate to say it completely solves the issue, and I wonder whether the issue itself is even “solvable.”

Maybe the solution can be found in the simple, yet wise words of this great man:

“Si se puede! (Yes we can!)” – Cesar Chavez

much si se puede!


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6 comments on “Push Back

  1. Hema P. says:

    Ollin, been there, done that — I mean struggling with my own version of Pushback. Great ideas you have suggested, to counter Pushback with: meditation and breathing techniques. They need discipline, and I’m trying to cultivate that. Blogging about our own fears and frustrations (about writing) helps, too, in my experience also.

    At the end of it, hope springs eternal in a human heart, doesn’t it? If not for that (and sheer stubbornness, if you will), we wouldn’t very well have made it to the top of the food chain! 🙂

  2. No problem with the eating on my part!! I’m Italian what can I say?

  3. […] {See: “Floating Above The Water” a post about writing and spirituality, and “Push Back” a post about writing during a difficult time in your personal life. In both posts I […]

  4. […] Kabit-Zinn, and Mark Nepo. For related posts read: “Floating Above The Water,” “Push Back,” and “Patience.“ […]

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