A practice. What is a practice. A practice, I am learning from yoga, is something you do regularly, that changes, and your relationship to it changes, and you keep doing it, whether or not you feel the same way about it today as you felt yesterday. Like any relationship, the feelings are strong and fleeting. If you used the feelings as the only compass you would be quickly lost. How can it be that you fall so hard in love with a person, certain that this person is the one you were meant to be with, the one made for you, and then one day later, or fourteen years later, it’s gone in a wink, all those feelings, and in its place, as with J and L, is fear, and dread, and rage? I fall in love with yoga, I realize that doing it makes me feel centered, keeps me reverent and alert. I sign up for a year of it, thinking, yes, this is my practice. Suddenly it looks kind of raggy around the edges. Is this really what I want? Is this really worth doing every day? It’s so dull. It takes so much time. And who the hell is this weird guy, talking to me about breathing, and holding my shoulder blades back and down?

So practice. Practice is riding that out, until the next feeling arrives, and blooms, and passes, and the next. Sometimes the feelings will be tempting and intoxicating, places you want to stay a long time, this feeling of being strong, or peaceful, but those feelings pass, and then you are bored, or nauseated, or tired, or irritated. You think, why did I make a commitment to this? Look at all these people. Why in the world are they here?

I have been getting better at letting there be silence in my day. At waiting, when I can’t think of what to say, or I can’t muster the will to do it. I haven’t ever really learned how to moodle, how to just sit there until some silverfish of an idea flickers by, get still enough that all the silverfish come out, and hold my breath, and watch them, and see what shapes they make. My unhelpful voice says what if no fish ever come out? Isn’t that lazy? Isn’t that an incredible waste of time? You need to prove your commitment to writing by making words. But maybe, something that I haven’t really thought of before, maybe writing is both an effort and a not effort. Maybe there is waiting, and poking around, and wondering, and then working really fast, and hard, for a concentrated time.

John Updike observes that everybody, even the most prolific poet he knows, considers being blocked as a regular part of the cycle of writing. Somebody else said they can only write for two or three hours when they are incubating ideas. Even Stephen King said he always has two stories going– one of them his real project, which he does in the morning, and the other one his “toy train”, which he fiddles with in the afternoon, trying to see if it will ever become something he wants to commit to.
More recently I try not to hurry myself, to let myself be patient, to cultivate the silence out of which some idea might slip, silver fish, and hover long enough for me to notice it.