“Some days, you need to let go of ambition and give yourself what your body or soul are longing for.
For me, this week, that is invoking the sigil of rest in the midst of too much flurry…and letting go of an ambitious project that yes, I could finish, but instead am choosing not to.”
I wrote that note during the final week of November, after I chose to not finish National Novel Writing Month.
Going in, I knew the task was going to be a huge push for several reasons and I chose to make the commitment anyway. Not that writing 50000 words in one month is beyond me. I’ve done it before, and I’ve had other periods of pretty steadily writing 10000 words a week, so upping that slightly isn’t too bad. But there were extenuating circumstances which included planning an action and my subsequent arrest.*
Hitting 50,000 words would have still been possible under these varied circumstances, and I knew it. But I felt the toll would have been too great, so I made a strong choice –an active choice– to not push through. These choices are important for magic, for creativity, and for life.
We make soft choices all the time, allowing circumstances to get the better of us and just not following through on our intentions. I did that inadvertently a couple of times in the last month, too. Two huge trips and the subsequent illness caught at a 10,000 person conference interfered with my ability to stay on top of email. Consequently, I missed a couple of things and disappointed some people, I’m sure. Those were “choices by default.” I didn’t choose to clear things off my plate, and as a consequence, things got cleared anyway.
Soft choices don’t make me feel good about how I’m running my life. Soft – or passive– choices show that I’m not paying enough attention to where I’m placing my thought, time, and energy. That’s not great magic. Nor does it bolster creative effort, or a very well put together life.
Choosing to quit NaNoWriMo before hitting the end of the month or 50,000 words though? I chose that, and feel good about it.
In choosing to quit before the original goal was met, I did something which I write about in my book Sigil Magic for Writers, Artists & Other Creatives. I “failed to success” as author Dean Wesley Smith calls it. I wrote 34,000 words in November, getting a big chunk of my novel series done. And I gleefully wrote an evil magician character which didn’t exist before. All of that feels marvelous.
Starting out the month, I used the NaNoWriMo sigil I’d designed for the project. It’s a sigil I can use for future writing streaks as well. The final week of November, I chose to call up another sigil I work with sometimes, the sigil of rest.
And that’s what I spent a lot of time on. Resting. Sure, I worked. Sure I did a host of other chores. Yes, I’ve went for bike rides and walks. But I also read a lot, went to the movies, had conversations, and laid in bed. I didn’t write for six days. Picking up writing again last week felt marvelous. And, considering how intense the last couple of weeks have been in the world at large, including in my home communities, I’m glad my intuition told me to set down that big commitment I’d made to myself.
Dealing with intensity without sufficient rest is something we can do, most certainly, but sometimes it is nice to not have to.
Choosing to lay things down is effective action. When I speak about the blade of will, I like to remember that the blade has two sides and the pointed tip where both sides meet. There is the yes side, that A side, and the no side, the B side. Then there’s the place where A meets B, and yes meets no. This is the place of “I need more time,” or “there must be a third road here somewhere.” When we definitively choose to operate in that nexus place, we choose from the seat of our power. This is just as effective as choosing A or B.
Why? Because we choose. We don’t just let the world choose for us.
Last month I actively chose A and then just as clearly chose B. Doing so reminded me that there are more options in life than I sometimes see.
My advice? If you choose something, choose it as strongly as you are able. Even when that means setting something down.
*The Wednesday before American Thanksgiving, I was arrested with thirteen other religious leaders in an action to support the Black Friday 14 –arrested November 2014 for locking down the SF BART train system – and to call for more equitable treatment of Black and brown people in our county. I’m happy to report that one week later, the district attorney dropped all charges against the Black Friday 14. What will happen with the interfaith court cases coming up remains to be seen.
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I give thanks to Unwoman, Shemandoah, Sarah, Rain, Cid, Alley, Mica, Christine, Vyviane, Katie, Emilie, Louise, Victoria, Greg, Ealasaid, Jennifer, Louise, Rose, Starr, Sinead, Lyssa, Aeptha, Cara, Crystal, Angela, Misha, Eridanus, Cheryl, David, Lori, Soli, Peter, Angela, Ambariel, Sonia, Jennifer, Ruth, Miranda, Jeremy, Jonah, Michelle, Jenny, Jen, Mir, Ruth, Emilie, Jonathan, Kate, Roger & Nancy.