Hibernaculum: a shelter occupied during the winter by a dormant animal (as an insect, snake, bat, or marmot)
Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.
I took shelter in a hibernaculum of my own making this winter. An unexpected loss (see Holding Tight and Letting Go) drove me inward and rendered me dormant. I felt blank on the inside, empty. I tried to escape into my writing, but the very act of sitting alone, quietly, was painful. I recognized that I needed to lay low, so I let myself burrow in deep to hibernate and let things be.
The holidays came and went. The new year started, but I continued to linger in my hibernaculum. Almost, but not quite, ready to make a start. Almost, but not quite, ready to pick up where I’d left off. While I believe I needed time to have the fresh wounds scab over, when I wanted to get out and get on with it, I couldn’t. My hibernaculum had collapsed around me, and I was stuck.
The inability to move forward has a visceral taste to me. I think it tastes like fear, cold and bitter on my tongue. It sours in my stomach. It makes the muscles in my face feel like stones, hard, sharp, and immovable. There’s an inexplicable longing, a yearning that is in the background of everything I do and say. In conversations, I listen to its yammering more than to the person I am talking to (sorry, guys). I know this feeling so well because I lived with it for years before I really started writing. It feels like failure too. Fear and Failure: the twin harpies that glide through my mind, squawking obnoxious lies and making me feel lower than dirt. There’s a third harpy, Regret, but her I can tune out most of the time.
I realized that this was going to be a battle.
I tried setting ambitious goals. I tried being a tough coach, yelling at my sleepy, out-of-sorts self to get it together. But nothing harsh, direct, or reasonable worked. I escaped my own scolding, ditched my set goals like an exasperating teenager, and lost the fight every single day — for two months.
Then I remembered that I’ve been here before. And I had won. I went from years of being paralyzed as a writer to writing half a dozen novels in two years — no exaggeration. If I did it once, I could do it again. I also had to allow that during my hibernation, I wrote three new chapters for two different books, rewrote two chapters of a third, wrote two short scripts, a couple of little articles, and edited the first draft of a nearly completed novel.
Had to pause for the facepalm
So, why am I flailing in the morass, doubting myself? More importantly, what do I do about it? And what “it” am I falling prey to?
Steven Pressfield calls it Resistance, that indefinable something that keeps you from doing your work. Resistance is the enemy. The enemy that lies within. And the only way to battle that enemy — no matter how many sources I consult — is to do what Nike tells us with a swoosh: JUST DO IT!
So simple, and so difficult.
So here it is, the end of January. California’s epic storms are ending. School is back in full swing. Jury duty looms.
But I’m out of excuses.
I thank the hibernaculum for keeping me safe these last few difficult months. But it’s time to go. Step by step, I have to rejoin the world. Word by word, I have to write. Sit in my chair and write.