It’s only 7:15 pm, but I’ve already hung the Do Not Disturb Sign on the bedroom door, lit the scented candle, and slipped into something more comfortable. Not a negligée, of course, but some loose PJ pants, an oversized men’s t-shirt, and absolutely no bra. The goal is comfort, not attractiveness, although I do make sure I don’t have food on my face before clicking “Join with Video” on my laptop screen.
This is Pyjama Writing, and it’s become one of my favourite “get-aways” during the lockdown since January. For one hour, I write silently in the Zoom company of other writers. It’s not a space for reading aloud or giving feedback; it’s simply a peaceful oasis of time to work on our writing projects.
Why not just use that hour to write on my own? Well … alone, I might throw in a load of laundry, or fall into a rabbit hole online, or get interrupted by a family member. But my family respects the PJ meeting times (maybe it’s a fear of getting caught on camera.) And I like writing with a group, especially with the AWA Method. There can be an exciting creative energy generated when a group writes together in a room, or thanks to the pandemic, in a Zoom meeting space. It’s inspiring to see all those fingers tapping on keyboards, or pens gliding across the page.
The Zoom room opens fifteen minutes early for an optional social time. At 7:30 pm (or 7:30 a.m. if it’s a morning session,) we post our intention in the Chat, and then write silently for an hour. At the end, we post a sentence in the Chat that we’re happy we wrote, and then we Unmute, and say good-bye, thanks, and blow kisses.
Tonight, for a few minutes during social time, we start playing with the filters. I’m still new-ish to Zoom, and technology scares me, so it’s a big deal for me to click on a cute little green sprout and see it appear on my head. Amazing! And what’s that on Lisa? A shark mouth and fin! Then she’s a unicorn, and I’m wearing rainbow glasses, and other people have joined us, and the screen is buzzing with hilarious masked, hatted, horned Zoom faces. Then Sue says: “Okay, everyone, time for silent writing.” In a flash, the filters disappear, the intentions begin scrolling in the Chat, and thirty writers settle down to work.
Except me, the woman with the sprout on her head. (I went back to the sprout because it was so “me.”) I can’t figure out how to take it off. The logical things I try don’t work, and I consider writing with the sprout bobbing in place. I’m intending to write about being out of my comfort zone anyway, so … if the sprout fits, wear it. But at that moment, the sprout disappears.
It takes me a few minutes of exploratory writing to settle in to my subject, an assignment for Blog School that’s a few days late. “Better late than never” is my motto for this year – a good one for me since I’m turtle-slow but determined.
The Comfort Zone. Taken out of context, it sounds great to me. Lots of cushy pillows, cosy blankets, favourite foods, mugs of tea, good books, a snoring dog, and a purring cat … But people use the term in a negative way, as in “get out of your comfort zone,” as if you’re stuck in a rut. Which I have been, so fair enough.
On the one hand, every day I’m in my comfort zone, which is here, at home. But it’s the seventh week of lockdown, and it’s a small house with four people, and a lot of pets. I don’t have a room of my own, a dedicated space for writing (but I’m working on it.) In the old days, if I had a deadline or was having trouble focusing on a piece of writing, I’d go away by myself for a night or weekend to write and think in peace. Can’t do that now.
Starting a blog, for me, is waaaaaay out of my comfort zone, in both the technology and the risky business of putting myself out there. But this is something I’ve been wanting to do for years, since I started writing again after what I call a “medically-induced dry spell” (brought on by PPMS, depression, and anxiety.) I almost started a blog in 2015, then again in 2017, and again last year. This, 2021, is The Year. I’m doing it — better late than never!
Those who know my difficulty with deadlines, stress, and perfectionism, compounded by the cognitive challenges MS has thrown into the cogs of my brain, don’t understand why I feel compelled to blog. Maybe as I write some posts, and as they get read, it will become clear.
The week before Blog School, I did something else waaaaaay out of my comfort zone; I attended an online writing retreat called “Rebirth Your Writing: Memoir Large & Small” with Allison K Williams and Dinty W. Moore. Four days of intense learning, thinking, writing, and sharing with extremely talented writers. In one of the “Breakout Rooms,” where three writers chat and share their writing from a prompt, I met a wonderful woman from New Jersey, who has started a group for retreat attendees who wish to continue meeting together.
I am SO looking forward to a time when my beloved local writing group, the Buffleheads, can meet in person again. Zoom is a great as a temporary fix, but I miss the hugs, the spontaneous conversations, the muffins. Dear God, the muffins!
Which brings me to another way I’ve gotten stuck, wedged as firmly as Pooh Bear in Rabbit’s front door. I’ve consumed so much comfort food during the pandemic that I’ve gained back all the weight I’d lost with Weight Watchers in the months before lockdown. I’d been doing so well, but then my mom died, and well – you know. Everyone has had a hard year. I will lose those pounds again. Maybe I’ll blog about it.
But I’ve blathered on enough for this post. Thank you for reading, for spending this time with me. I hope it wasn’t uncomfortable.
No need to hurry.
No need to sparkle.
No need to be anybody but yourself.
– Virginia Woolf