Surrender.

When I finished the first draft of my novel, my first impulse was to dive right into revision. I had been on a roll for months and thought: “Hey? Why stop? I’ll just keep writing!”

But I couldn’t get myself to do it. I started to push myself harder, and keep writing, but then I caught myself. I was doing it again. I was demanding more than the situation called for. I wanted to fill in the empty space, before the empty space made itself known. You know what empty space I’m talking about, right? The empty space that comes between the end of one phase, and the beginning of another? That empty space.

I didn’t want to dwell in that empty space, so I tried to force my writing. But it was no use. I couldn’t move forward, no matter how hard I tried. So I let go. I let the novel go and now I’m dwelling in that empty space.

I’m starting to realize that my habit of trying desperately to fill in the empty spaces of life was learned from growing up in a culture that demands that its members fill in EVERY empty space in life.

For instance, if we are not busy talking to someone, we’re texting. If we’re not texting, we’re twittering. If we’re not twittering, we’re facebooking. If we’re not facebooking we’re watching TV, or listening to music, or surfing the web, or watching YouTube, or working, or exercising, or reading and if we’re not doing any of those, we try to frantically search for the next thing to do that will fill in the empty space in between one thing and the next.

We are desperate to fill in every silence, every piece of stillness, with something–something we deem more desirable, more worthy than that stillness. Something we think is more important and urgent than that damning quiet underneath everything–that damning quiet that always exists. That quiet that starts to drives us crazy when we first notice it, in those brief moments when we accidentally drop our guard, and all the clamor we worked so hard to create dies down.

It’s as if we are afraid that the empty space in between things is so large and so vast that it might swallow us up. Sallow us up into what, we don’t know, because we’ve already filled in the empty space we would have needed to think of an answer to that very question.

Stillness makes us nervous. Quiet is disturbing. The empty space is seen as the enemy. In that empty space, boredom can sneak through. So can laziness, apathy, sadness, depression… Or at least that’s what we fear might happen. Inaction is like a death to us. If we stop, we think we will die.

If you believe this is an exaggeration, then you might start to observe some of the people around you. Notice how they frantically move from one thing to the next, never allowing for an empty space. As if they fear that if an empty space was allowed, they’d die. In fact, you might notice that these people do the very opposite of allowing room for an empty space: they will cram two, three, even four things into one, single moment. Texting while listening, while typing, while watching TV, while cooking…

I wonder if the more clamor we bring into our lives, the more this might be a sign that we are trying to run away from that empty space, and what it might reveal to us.

Because empty spaces are revealing. They reveal how you feel and what you think at any given moment. They bring you to observe the life around you.

You fear that if you put on the breaks and look around for just a moment, that your life might reveal to you something you were already starting to suspect: that there is no need to rush, or to be frantic, or to be busy. Everything will still be there if you allow for an empty space. Nothing terrible happens in that empty space, and most importantly, you notice that if you stop, you DON’T die. In fact you feel a little more ALIVE.

I’m beginning to learn that, more often than not, life begs us to stop. Not go. We rush forward, and life pulls us back. We get angry and say: “Why are you asking me to stop, Life? I’m on a roll!”  Life responds by saying: “Because you need to stop.” But we’d rather not listen to life’s advice. We always think this advice is wrong and that we know better. We think we have to do what everyone else is doing: keep busy, fill in the empty spaces or else–or else what? No one knows, because we don’t have any empty spaces left that will allow us to think up an answer to that very question!

But as much as we ignore life’s urging for us to stop, life will keep pulling on us until we are dragged to the very bottom of the ground, and at that moment we will have no choice but to let go of all of our frantic busyness. We will have to give ourselves a chance to rest in the empty spaces of life.

We will have to surrender.

Of course, surrendering takes courage. You have to trust something not many people want to trust: the empty spaces of life. Others would rather battle it out until they are near dead–even if they know all their fighting is useless. To surrender and let your work and your life flow to where it has to go, is a scary thing. You have to release your need to control and have faith. You have to be a tiny bottle carried by the flood. You have to become a delicate piece of glass that has to spin whenever and wherever the raging current takes you, and trust the journey.

If you are forcing something, fighting against something that is only causing you to become fatigued and drained of your energy, if you are locked in a battle that has not produced any results, then maybe it is time for you to surrender.

Surrendering is not putting up a white flag. It’s not giving up. Not necessarily.

It’s letting go of something and trusting that this something will come back to you, when the time is right, and when you are ready.

much surrender,

Ollin

Is there something or someone who you need to surrender to? How do you find the courage to let go and dwell in the empty spaces of life and the writing process?

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41 comments on “Surrender.

  1. afkemp915 says:

    Really nice blog this morning – It’s al about just letting go and surrendering!

    Hope you had wonderful holidays!🙂

  2. Time between is a blessing to be cherished. You are right, Ollin, we need to slow down and enjoy that pause. Blessings to you…

  3. Leianne says:

    Great blog! Got right through me, I do feel that if I stop I might lose the good things in life so I’m always on the go and yes, I do multitasking most of the time. It’s crazy! @_@

  4. Kiara says:

    I’ve had to learn this the hard way in the form of my body giving me a rough time with a chest infection, and finally making me realise I needed to slow down. We all need a break every now and then.

    In the empty spaces, I always try to take a moment and breathe. No matter how motivated I might be to throw myself straight into something, I know this might not always be the best thing to do. I step away from a project for a few days. I make myself enjoy the free time I have so I can go back and tackle the empty spaces with a refreshed mind. Actually, I just blogged about similar. I guess great minds think alike!

    I hope you had a great holidays, Ollin, and this is a great post.

    • Ollin says:

      Yes, it is very hard to give in, when you feel you have to give it your all. But like you said sometimes we need to take a break.

      Hope you are having a great holiday season as well!

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ollin Morales, Ollin Morales. Ollin Morales said: Surrender.: http://wp.me/pPq2W-TK […]

  6. No, don’t surrender to the desire to start editing now. Trust me on this. It’s not a good idea. You need that “empty space” to clear your head. You need weeks, even a couple of month’s to be able to distance yourself from your writing. It’s been 3 months since I finished what I thought was going to be my “final” draft. I read bits of it yesterday and hated it. Truly hated it. Sucks, doesn’t it. Of course, doesn’t mean everyone is going to be like that. For me, it’s to do with the fact I didn’t follow my heart and fell for all the traps when I started reading what agents liked/disliked etc. If you were true to your story, it is very likely you will NOT have this problem, but you still need plenty of time to separate yourself from it because you need to approach it as if you were a brand new reader to it. It’s the only way you can edit it and revise properly. If you’re really itching to write, go ahead, you can keep writing this blog, and you could even write a short story, or something like that, to keep that writing “momentum” going. However, if you choose not to write for a few weeks/months, that’s fine as well. My biggest mistake was being super-impatient and setting myself unrealistic deadlines that stressed me out to no end. You live and learn, and I learnt the hard way. I think your’e on the right path and you’ll be fine🙂

    • Ollin says:

      I believe I was true to the story, so I hope it won’t be too bad. Although I know that it has a long ways to go. I’ll take your advice Alannah. You are right, I need to wait until the material is a little more new to me. Thanks for your wisdom! I needed it.

  7. Zinnia says:

    Thank you for this post. It is exactly what I needed right now. I just wrote last night about being stuck between surrendering or continuing to fight something I know quite will always be a fight. I realize now the best thing to do is surrender. Gracias!

  8. Pen says:

    Oh wow, this is so so true!! One of my pet peeves is waiting for someone else and I guess it’s because I hate just standing around doing nothing. I compulsively text people, call them, read the news, weather rather then stand and be left with my own thoughts. I think this has gotten worse since the age of iPods. I used to use mine constantly- on the train, while studying, exercising. Eventually I got sick of my music (I’ve still got a 2GB first gen iPod nano which holds like 400 songs max) and was too cheap to buy a new one so I gave up listening to my iPod. And stopped exercising. Because how could I exercise WITHOUT MUSIC? Haha, I’ve since learnt that it’s ok to be left alone with my own thoughts. And hey, from time to time, they’re sort of interesting. Fantastic post, thanks for the reminder!!🙂

    • Ollin says:

      You know I don’t own an iPod and I wonder if I’m missing anything. I LOVE to use the times when I go running or meditating to examine the world around me and to try to silence my thoughts and be present. Those moments are so sacred to me that I would never give them up for the clamor of music. I think those empty spaces are great to reconnect with nature, the world around us, and the present moment. You’re welcome!

  9. Artswebshow says:

    I tend to fill those empty spaces with sitting and thinking about random stuff.
    It can go on forever if i dont stop it.
    But it is important to not try and fill those empty spaces sometimes.
    If not we’d never rest and eventually we’d lose steam as you said with this story.
    A breather and you’ll be back stronger than ever

    • Ollin says:

      Good advice, I nice relaxing breath in between things is a great way to enjoy the empty spaces of life. I try to focus on my breath whenever I find my mind becoming too frantic. It calms my mind every time.

  10. andrea says:

    This was a great blog Ollin. You are truly inspiring me. It spoke to me and reminds me to constantly LET GO! I gained some insight from Robin Sharma about the 3’S (Silence—Solitude—Stillness) At first it was hard to be put in practice but it gets easier. It’s important to shut down the distraction, surrender and listen to your hearts desire. But in the end it’s worth it and makes for a happier ME.

    • Ollin says:

      Never heard of Robin Sharma. Is he buddhist? I’ve been inspired by people like Eckhart Tolle, John Kabit-Zinn and Thich Nhat Hanh to dwell more and more in the stillness. But I like what you said about peeling back all the distraction and listening to your heart. That is something that I am currently learning from Mark Nepo.

      I’m glad my blog is helping you become a happier you. That makes ME happy.🙂

      • andrea says:

        Robin Sharma is a leadership expert and author. He wrote the book “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” to name one. His writings are applicable to daily life, about how to live a world class life, but it is geared to entrepreneurs. I’ve read Eckhart Tolle, but my main influence and what started my change in perspective years ago is Don Miguel Ruiz. I will check out Mark Nepo.

  11. jannatwrites says:

    My version of letting go was when I made the decision to not be so hard on myself on the days when writing doesn’t happen. I trusted that if I didn’t write for a night, it doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t ever write again (last year, I even stopped for 4 months while we painted our house – and guess what? I finally got back into it again.) Letting go is a good thing🙂

  12. Addy says:

    Really good post Olly! Everyone hates advice but eventually it comes true and the person who gave it communicates “I told you so!”. I am a work obsessed person, I mean we all are and I hate it when I am sitting simply, but I have toned down and taken it slow for now. Going too fast burns you out at a faster rate and much earlier than predicted!

    Best Wishes!!!

  13. […] Surrender. « {Courage 2 Create} We are desperate to fill in every silence, every piece of stillness, with something–something we deem more desirable, more worthy than that stillness. Something we think is more important and urgent than that damning quiet underneath everything–that damning quiet that always exists. That quiet that starts to drives us crazy when we first notice it, in those brief moments when we accidentally drop our guard, and all the clamor we worked so hard to create dies down… Stillness makes us nervous. Quiet is disturbing. The empty space is seen as the enemy…Inaction is like a death to us. If we stop, we think we will die… I wonder if the more clamor we bring into our lives, the more this might be a sign that we are trying to run away from that empty space, and what it might reveal to us. Because empty spaces are revealing. They reveal how you feel and what you think at any given moment. They bring you to observe the life around you. (tags: life noise listening attitude socialmedia) […]

  14. Ollin says:

    I’m starting to do that now Nancy, declutter everything. I enjoy it, but it is scary. I’m so happy that you went on that journey long ago and have been finding it fruitful. I look forward to being at the place where you are currently at. Peace to you, too.

  15. I definitely agree, Ollin. We all need the quiet — we make our best life’s observations then, I think.

    In regard to writing, I always give a piece at least 6 weeks to breathe in between drafts. Gives me fresh eyes, too.

  16. workingtechmom says:

    Enjoyed this post. I am taking a break and quiet time this week and allowing my body and mind some rest as I gear up for the new year. Set yourself a date for the editing….and then enjoy between now and then. You’ll know that you aren’t avoiding, just scheduling.

    Happy Holidays Ollin.

  17. VJ says:

    Hi! Thanks for that lovely post. I couldn’t have read it at a better time. And you inspired me to write about the empty space in my own life🙂 Thanks again!

  18. M. Howalt says:

    Very well written, Ollin, and I think I agree with you on most points.
    I try to enjoy my empty spaces – sometimes I am forced to have them, sometimes I willingly choose to because I need them.
    – As for the empty space connected to story writing, it is not the fear of stopping that spurs me on. It is the fact that I need to be creative. It doesn’t need to be the writing itself as much as letting the ideas flow in one way or another. It can be writing without a goal, or it can be drawing a character or it can be “talking” to one in my head. I suppose it could come down to the same thing, psychoanalytically speaking, that I need to be creative out of fear of empty spaces, but it doesn’t feel like that. It feels more like the empty spaces become the creativity, that when I stop one writing project (or a phase in one), I am free and open to a new input. If I hurry on and don’t have the empty space, I will never get that input, be creative with it, but if I stop and have the empty space, it fills itself with creativity.
    Hmm … I hope that made some sense.

    • Ollin says:

      Makes perfect sense M. Howalt. I didn’t mention this but yes, when we dwell in those empty spaces sometimes the ideas and answers come to us more freely. But it is only when we surrender FIRST. Those ideas tend not to come to us when we are desperately searching, they come to us when we let go. Sounds like you already understand the concept and use it on a daily basis. That’s great!

  19. PatsyLynn says:

    I stumbled on your post and am so glad I did. May we all build the habit of letting go into empty space in the coming year. Best wishes to you, OM — and all who read this.

  20. […] in the midst of all those catchier titles, a smaller title like “Surrender” or a longer title like “The Story of How An Unfit Man, Allergic to Any Kind of […]

  21. Mike says:

    Nicely said. I’m retired, and often the get comments from working friends “but how do you keep busy?” Telling me indirectly that ‘s how they measure their day, their worth, that their goal is to manage to keep busy – not happy, productive, challenged – just busy. Sad.

    • Ollin says:

      I know what you mean. We get so caught up in just being “busy” when what we should be “busy” with is what will make our life more fulfilling. Thanks Mike!

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