Don’t Push the River [& other advice]

Last month I was stressing out intensely over writing my next novel.  We’re talking panic, high stress, extreme anxiety, the whole shebang.  There’s a head game in writing, and I was losing it.  Badly.

I reached out to my undergraduate writing instructor, Judith Hougen.  She was a mentor to me in college, and in many ways, she still is today, even though I don’t get to see her nearly as often as I’d like.  I’ve written about Judy on my blog before: how she is laden with wisdom and creativity, how she loves truth and beauty.

We got coffee, and I shared how stressed I was, then I waited for her wisdom.  She said:

InWater1 by carpeemorteem via deviantART

InWater1 by carpeemorteem
via deviantART

Don’t push the river.

The full proverb is “Don’t push the river; it flows by itself.”

A river is going to go where it wants, carve out the path it chooses.  I’m a fool if I think that I can redirect it– or that I somehow keep it flowing.

It quite fascinated me because one of the things that my cognitive-behavioral therapist said to me (digitally recorded for all time in my ERP exposure recording) was this:

“I want you to close your eyes and imagine you’re standing in a river.  The current is strong, and the waters rush past you, pounding you, beating against your legs, hips, waist.  Eventually your whole body is fatigued; your legs are so tired you can barely stand.  Then you finally turn around and let yourself go with the current.”

His point was plainly and simply that he was offering me relief.

And that’s what Judy was offering too.

Judy said, “If you skip writing one night, you have to trust it’s not all going to leave you.”

Judy said, “Let the writing of this book be its own experience.  Don’t compare it to the last one.”

Judy said, “Respect the mystery of writing.

It was like balm to my anxiety-riddled soul.  I am letting her words minister to my writer’s heart.  And letting my one word for 2014– grace— work its way into the cold and lonely places in me like an adhesive that holds me together.

9 thoughts on “Don’t Push the River [& other advice]

    • You’re too kind. I became deeply indebted to you in the first semester I knew you. So, all these years later, I can’t keep track anymore and just feel grateful for all the wisdom you’ve poured into me and into so many others.

  1. Pingback: Jackie’s Team | Jackie Lea Sommers

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