Since 2016, I've taken 1-2 months each year to get away from the hustle and bustle that is life in Toronto, to sit with myself and reflect. I've always found these times vital. It's because of these slow seasons that I've gotten to know myself, and reconnect with myself when I feel ungrounded. But though vital, they haven't always been pure joy.
Traveling solo has, in my experience, a few stages.
The first is excitement—I'm shaking things up. I'm going on an adventure! The second is a sort of melancholia—I haven't had a conversation with anyone in a while... I'd like to sit with my friends in the way that group over there is. What am I doing? How long is it until I go home again?
And the third is the shift. It's where you're comfortable with your new, nomadic rhythm, have met a few people/made a few acquaintances, and, what's more, have grown used to the quiet, and grown reflective. This is where the magic happens.
I'm thinking about this now as this period of social distancing reminds me a lot of my experience traveling solo. There have been waves of emotion rolling through most of us, and though none of us have likely felt excitement, we may have felt surges of inspiration ("Seize the day! Build that business!") followed by drops into what feels like despair or depression, and so on. I've been through the cycle, too.
In the last week though, I feel like I've settled into something like that third phase of solo traveling. I've felt a closeness with my own self return in a way I haven't felt since I was last in Europe. I've reminded myself of my biggest, scariest dream, and seen how I've distanced myself from it in the past few months out of fear. And I've resolved all over again to put that dream before those layers I was tucking it beneath. In words cut clearly: I'm putting my novel first again.
(Practically, that looks like me devoting myself to the processes of querying and outreach. I've decided to do a minimum of 2 queries per week, and a maximum of 5. Breaking this down in such a way that I can literally schedule querying into my calendar not only makes me accountable to myself, but it diminishes the enormity (read: scariness) of the process. It's just another thing to do in the day. Another habit. And one day, it will pay off.
I have complete faith in this process because I've seen it pay off in other areas of my life, like with my freelance business, and even in doing my own outreach/PR. It does take a while to get things off the ground, but persistence is key. Persistence held up by faith breeds results.)
In doing this, in putting the novel first again, I've felt my sense of identity become enriched. This is a hard thing to adequately describe, but what it feels like is happiness and warmth, like a deep seeded form of self-love growing inside.
That glowing feeling comes down to connecting and accepting who I really am. Full stop. My younger self spent early mornings making up worlds in her notebook before the real world around her woke up. That was me at my purest, doing an activity no one knew about just because it made me feel so alive inside.
Storytelling has always been the way I ground and process life. So, when I forget that part of myself, when I disregard her for too long, I tend to get lost, unsure what I'm thinking or feeling, and then ultimately feel sad and purposeless.
Being a novelist doesn't make me more worthy of love and happiness though. No. But writing novels does help me drink in, understand, and experience love and happiness. And unless that one day changes, unless I experience the world most genuinely through another outlet in the future, writing novels and sharing them with the world needs to remain a top focus. And I'm grateful I've been reminded of that. There's been so much tragedy in the world with this pandemic, and it breaks my heart. So, finding silver linings, like a deeper connection to the self/others, is what is pulling me through. As well as hearing about you and your moments of calm, joy, purpose, and/or love amidst the madness.
Have you guys had moments of clarity in the last few days, too? I'd love to hear them! xx