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  • Valerie Brooke, MD

Stuck in the mud of procrastination

Stuck. Procrastinating. Directionless. Resistant.


These are the words that come to mind when I think about my writing. Or more accurately, my recent lack of writing. I started the day yesterday with the most honest of intentions: I would finally sit down and write the next piece for my blog. It’s been two months since I last posted and I have been telling myself that I needed a break of just a week or two, and now the weeks have turned into months, and if I don’t light a fire under my pen, it will soon turn into years.


Saturday morning I met with my writing group, a weekly ZOOM meeting where we discuss different topics on writing, share pieces we have been working on, and encourage each other to keep at it, no matter how slow, how painful, or how shitty our first drafts are. The topic that morning was the benefits of daydreaming. How those moments suspended between our to-dos and tasks can be delicious pockets of creativity, if we allow ourselves time to drop into that day dreamy space.


So, yesterday morning I grabbed my camera and headed out for a walk around the wetlands before the heat really scorched the paved trail that winds its way around reeds and ponds. I was hoping to get a glimpse of a great white egret. Several days ago, we had the longest and wettest thunderstorm I have ever experienced here in Reno, Nevada. Nothing like the calamitous storms of New England where I grew up of course, but welcome, nonetheless. The dry cracked mud of the wetland was now covered with dark water and the birds of the wetland were celebrating.


I walked for an hour and was blessed with not just one glimpse of an egret, but countless ones, interspersed with a pelican or two, and the rarer to see grey heron. I let my mind wander as I waited in different places around the reeds, camera held up to try and capture one in flight. I thought about my writing, why I felt stuck, and what was holding me back. I said I wanted to be a writer, so why wasn’t I writing? Why was I so good at doing everything else first, leaving no time at the beginning or end of the day for my writing? Many thoughts and ideas swirled around my brain and for the first time in many weeks I felt a glimmer of inspiration.


I got home and continued building a list of emails for my blog posts, something I had started well over a year ago, when I first re-released my blog. I added to the original list and told myself that I would complete a blog entry by the end of the day. That I would go back to making it a weekly thing. That having a group of folks interested in my writing would help motivate me. I smiled as I built the list and figured out how to add subscribers to my blog program.


Then I took a nap.


Yup. A nap.


When I woke up, I was so hungry, as I had missed lunch due to a nap that was meant to last for about forty minutes but instead stretched into two and half hours. I grabbed myself some leftover spaghetti from the night before and dove into a novel that I just started reading yesterday, written by a good friend that is a brilliant writer. Writers are supposed to be avid readers I told myself. The more books I read the better writer I will become. I finished off my bowl of pasta and was thinking about going to the freezer to have some ice cream.


Stop! I told myself. You cannot have any ice cream until you do some writing. You have two hours before your next commitment. You are fed, well rested, and have absolutely no excuse to not write. Ice cream will be your reward. Now get to it!


And so, I dragged myself to my room like a punished child and grabbed my computer. I decided to not sit at the desk, too much like work. I grabbed my new laptop pillow and plopped right onto my bed; into the warm indentation my nap had just produced. I opened Word and stared at a blank page. Stared some more. And then stared some more.


What the heck can I write about? All the inspirational fodder that was in my brain during my wetland walk that morning had disappeared and in its place was an empty container. I felt stuck. I didn’t know what to write about. There were so many things I could write about that I really didn’t know where to start, where to pick up a thread. Do I write about my work? About how COVID is never going to end, about how I love and hate working in medicine at the same time, about how I cannot wait to retire while I also cannot imagine a life where I don’t have contact with patients?


Do I write about my life outside of work? The things I do to restore myself? My friends and family? The wetland and wildlife? The mountains and lakes? The online support communities that have kept me alive the last two years? Who really cares about any of this? What is even safe to share in this space? And who am I writing for anyway?


I’m obviously having a writing existential crisis, and rather than wait until I have it all figured out before getting some words written, I decided to just write about where I am right now. Stuck. Procrastinating. Directionless. Resistant.


Then I went to get some well-earned ice cream.


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