Editor’s Notebook: All hail the Sloth-beast!
We’re BACK with another essay in our series, 7 Sins of the Writing Life: Sloth.
“I’m appalled that Sloth is not simply having a lazy day,” writes Cheryl. I’m appalled, too! Wait… what??
By ignoring our writing we cut ourselves off from the rewards that stem from this deep thinking and creativity, and we fail a community that needs the respite of a compelling story after a long, hard day, an essay that helps them feel less alone, or a poem that provides courage during a tough time.
I’m not sure anyone needs my writing but me, and, because he has to live with me, my husband. I have proved many times that if I don’t maintain a regular writing practice, I begin to disintegrate. Specifically, I get over-sensitive, spacey, and irritable. I get twitchy. Writing keeps me sane and Sloth is my enemy.
To rescue myself from a protracted period of Sloth this summer, I started doing weekly Zoom meetings with one of the most talented writers I know, my friend Annaliese. We’re both tackling an unfamiliar genre and neither of us is used to feeling uncertain about how to manage a project. Our meetings allow us to get past hesitance, confusing material, and rabbit holes.
We take turns reading aloud whatever we wrote in the preceding week, reflect on what we heard, process questions and plans about what’s next, and then sign off with good wishes for the writing week ahead. I can’t say the Sloth-beast doesn’t rear up between these meetings but she damn well knows to take a seat in the back when the deadline is coming on hard. Six months into this particular Zoom habit, I’m deep into my project, and the only things twitching are my eager fingers, desperate for the keyboard.
Cheryl, who talks about how to train the Sloth-beast in her essay, approves.
I asked Annaliese what she thinks of the deadly sin of Sloth with regard to writing and writing practice. Like Cheryl, she quickly found her way to the beast:
[S]loth always means to me a dragging, a sluggishness, reluctance to stick with things. It’s tied up in the whole thing of work bringing one closer to some kind of enlightenment. Clearly a judgment word.
But in truth I think of sloth the animal (not a concept but a living, breathing being) as, yes, slow-moving, but not in a willful, negative, destructive way. It’s the sloth’s way and it’s consistent and tenacious, and that pace presents challenges and dangers and yet they keep on keeping on. They show up—no matter how hard that may be. Of course, that’s the human perspective. The sloth is not slow to him/herself. And “slow” is not a negative thing. We live in such a fast-paced society/world/orbit these days, we have forgotten the value of showing up, of being, of breath and love and joy and generosity.
We have to show up, no matter how hard that may be.
If you’re feeling a little bit of Sloth—what writer isn’t?—and you’re fortunate enough to have an Annaliese in your life, give her a call. But of course there are so many ways to train the Sloth-beast to help you show up. Let Cheryl tell you how she did it.
May you indulge and enjoy all writing sins forevermore. And may you write well today.