Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Locating the Moon

There are stretches of time in my writing life when I wake up eager to work and have one productive day after another. Then there are stretches like this week, when I wake up feeling like it's intolerable to be on page 12 of a difficult 400-page revision, and am I really supposed to be in charge of making all these decisions? Is it really up to me and only me to decide what's best at every moment? To figure out the solution to a lot of complicated problems? By myself, in this room today for hours?

It becomes difficult to keep my focus small. Instead of the group of pages that are my small task for today, with a small list of objectives, I start thinking about all the changes the book needs as a whole, and I get overwhelmed. I start thinking about how many days this big revision is likely to take, while my editor and other people are waiting, and I get overwhelmed. My friends might find me to be a little bit glum, because during these times, I tend to see the world through revision-colored glasses. Honestly, I feel like I'm five years old and scared and need hugs.

All of this is why this morning, I went online to find out the state of the moon. Here in the Boston area, the moon is a tiny waxing crescent today that sets at 9:13 PM. This explains why haven't seen the moon for ages: it's been up during the day, and very small. But I'm going to make a point of finding it today. One of the things that kicks me out of this rotten feeling about my revision – consequently making it easier for me to sit down and do the actual work – is to step back, far, far back, and get some perspective on how little this revision actually matters. For example, how much would this revision matter if someone were looking at it from the moon?

The funny thing is that two opposite answers exist at the same time. It would matter hardly at all; look: it's so, so small when seen from the moon. Often I like to back up even further, get myself out into the further reaches of the galaxy, so that the sun is just a dim dot. None of the things that feel overwhelming to me here in my office feel overwhelming to me if I'm looking at them from some other part of the galaxy. I find it intensely relieving to be reminded of how small we all are and how little it all matters. My life is a tiny little speck of a thing.

Yet it also clarifies how important every tiny thing is. The universe is a big mystery made up of tiny things. We are tiny, but our lives are intense dramas that matter. This revision doesn't matter, but it matters a whole lot to me.

I'm not sure why, but every time I'm able to get this kind of perspective, it becomes easier to sit down and work.