# of pages written: 0.5
# of days left to write 1st draft: 142
Today I was not very productive with my writing. Plus it’s been raining for days, and it’s so humid in the house that my butt sticks to the toilet seat and all of my spearmint Breathsavers have turned to soggy green and white mush. I sat on my bed for several hours this afternoon trying to write and immediately getting frustrated with my novel. How is it going to end, Eva? I kept asking myself. You need to decide how it’s going to end and then figure out how to get there and what the deeper meaning of it is. When I couldn’t figure that out, I said to myself, well, fine, but you need to get some more pages written before the end of the day. But I didn’t. I went grocery shopping and finished reading Bad Behavior instead.
Naturally, I was feeling rather cranky when Nikki came home.
It had stopped raining, and Nikki asked if I would like to go for a water run. She and Nate recently went to the chiropractor, who suggested a spine exercise that involves using foam noodles as support to “run” in deep water. I’m not totally clear how this differs from treading water, but I told Nikki, sure, I’d go. We drove to Baker’s Pond and picked our way down the steep, muddy path in our flip-flops. We waded into the pond slowly. The water was clear and cold from the rain, with tiny black bugs skimming the surface. I swiped at them with my noodle.
We doggy-paddled out until we could no longer feel weeds brushing at our ankles then we wrapped the noodles around our chests. I swished my legs back and forth underwater and looked around. The gray clouds moved quickly above my head and wind rippled the glassy surface of the pond.
I mentioned to Nikki that I was frustrated because I hadn’t made any progress on my writing.
Nikki said that seeing people dying puts things like that in perspective. “This person invented something. This person was an incredible artist. They still die. They can’t take it with them. Plus, those things don’t necessarily make them happy.”
“Yeah, I know,” I said. “I know we’re all going to die and so we should try to be as contented with our daily life as possible, but sometimes I think contentment can come from being productive and feeling good about what we’ve accomplished.”
I kicked my legs and watched the reeds along the shore lean in the wind. “I mean, I’m in the pond right now, and I’m content with that, but I don’t know if that’s enough.”
“I used to think I always had to be productive. I had to be the best at everything. I felt like I had something to prove.” Nikki’s chin dipped down into the water. “And I still feel that way sometimes, but not as often.”
I sighed. “Yeah, I guess I’m trying to prove something. I want to please my professors and my family. All these people who are like, ‘we can’t wait to read your book and we know you can do it.’ I don’t want to let them down. And I guess I want to prove something to myself, too. I get so anxious and stressed out about it sometimes, and then I’m not as productive.”
“You know, Thoreau spent two years just hanging out at a pond,” Nikki pointed out. “Every day, just sitting at the pond all day long.”
I wonder if I should do that. Baker’s Pond is just a few miles down the road. I guess I’m not really sure what I should do. Maybe writing isn’t the right thing. But what is the right thing? Is there a “right” way to life your life?
“I don’t know,” I said. “I just don’t know.”
On the drive home, Nikki talked about how some spiritual teachers say all human suffering comes from our not knowing. Not knowing the meaning of life, or what to do with our life, or what happens to us when we die. We deal with the not knowing by covering it up – by pretending that we do know, or by doing things to distract us from the not knowing.
I couldn’t help thinking of myself, earlier, demanding to know about my novel “how is it going to end? What is the meaning of it?” Well, gosh, I don’t know that about my own life, so no wonder it’s hard to figure that out for the lives of my characters.
I worry sometimes that I enjoyed writing a lot more before I put all these expectations on myself. Now there’s the pressure to be productive, to be successful – things that happen after the writing is complete – instead of just enjoying the actual writing itself.
“Thank you for suggesting the water run, Nikki,” I said as we got out of the car. “It was really nice to do something that didn’t involve trying to get anywhere.” And it’s true. We were perfectly happy with the running itself – there was no destination.
I’ve made this writing goal for myself, and I do want to reach it, but I also know that life is about more than the end product. I hope tomorrow I’ll enjoy the writing itself and not worry quite so much about whether or not it’s going anywhere.