My sabbatical year is now, and has been for a few weeks, officially at an end. I’m back in the classroom, and the committee meetings, and the long commute. Back to that kind of free-floating anxiety that comes with this job: the cloud of so many things that must be done, things half-remembered, or overdue, things that could be done, ideas and responsibilities and conversations and worries, the gray cloud that slouches behind you all day, every day, shows up in your dreams, eats lunch with you, sits beside you, gets between you and the book you are trying to read, the papers you are trying to comment on..
I’d forgotten about this.
A year away and there was no cloud, nothing between me and the work of writing. While on sabbatical, I felt at my desk as I always do working in the barn. When mucking stalls, grooming horses, cleaning tack, moving hay, riding — all the work and pleasure of horses — the cloud just isn’t there. There is something about working with your body that clears the mind. Your hands are busy, and your imagination is loosed.
.So now, to recreate “barn mind,” I make time every morning to work at my analog desk.* The desk was my mother’s, and her mother’s before her. Solid mahogany, a drop leaf writing surface, the desk probably about a hundred years old, maybe more. It’s a desk made for writing by hand. I sit at this desk in the morning, write longhand as long as I can. And the cloud goes away. Even if it’s only for a few hours, this makes all the difference.
*a nice idea I stole from Steal Like an Artist. Go read this book. It’s terrific.