I came to the woods to find myself, but my version is a year-long cross country road trip in my Subaru that doubles as my home in the hopes of adventure and endless writing marathons.
When deciding to live in your car, you are limited to packing the essentials, the things you absolutely need to survive and nothing more. Beyond the obvious, my essentials included packs of spiral notebooks, a box of fresh black ball point pens, and books on writing by the greats like Julia Cameron and Stephen King.
I envisioned being so inspired by the mountains, sunsets and undiscovered scenery that I would be filling up notebooks faster than my hand could move, following the legacies of the Jack Kerouacs and Henry Thoreaus. I envisioned that romantic, bohemian notion of writing the great American novel while experiencing what is great about America.
Instead, I am a month into this journey and have done everything BUT write.
I find myself struggling, rising each morning for my coffee and then moving along to my next destination; no stillness, no stopping, no time. The inspiration is not lacking—on the contrary, I have more ideas than I know what to do with. Poems and prose flowed as I walked through the caves of Carlsbad and watched the sunrises over the Texan desert. I wake up with a new story, a new idea, never left wanting, always more. But by the time I get to my notebook, I am stripped of energy, overstimulated, choosing rest and nothingness instead of putting pen to paper.
The struggle is poetically ironic—when I had no time to write, living the 9-5 hustle, I was writing all the time; I MADE time to write. I would rise before the sun, brew the strongest coffee I could, nuzzle into my couch and fill up pages before I had to go to work. The routine was slow and steady, and I was able to prioritize writing among my long list of life responsibilities.
Now, I have all the time in the world, surrounded by color, creation, everything an artist could want and I can’t get to my notebook. I came to the woods to write and am being humbled and reminded that the grass is greener on the other side, that it’s easy to believe “if only I had x, y, z and then I can be the great writer I strive to be.”
Well, I am on the other side, with all of the time in the world, and the struggle is real. I feel a huge precipice between me and my writing goals and dreams, unsure of how to wedge the distance and get back to the rhythm that I had established before I left. I am unclear on how to reestablish the boundaries in what feels like a boundaryless life I am now living, to answer the looming question, “Where do I go from here?”
It took a rainy day in Arkansas for me to begin finding the answer. As the lake was fighting against the looming storm, to find equilibrium in the movement, I realized I too needed to fight for stillness. I need to create pauses in the midst of the momentum. I need days where I do nothing but read, write, create, and rest. It’s as important if not more important than the doing, the traveling, exploring; the ying to the adventuring yang.
Backpackers call these zero days, days of rest after they have traversed thousands of miles from one point to the next. I need my own zero days, giving myself permission to stop so I can let the dust settle, catch my breath and capture my thoughts on paper. As much as we may associate writing with energy, momentum, the notion of “keep the hand moving,” I am realizing more and more that writing requires stillness, cool river water, a pause in the midst of the hot volcanic momentum of life. It requires permission rather than time, a shift in mindset from “I’ll get to it when” to “I’ll get to it now.”
This month on the road has made me realize that now more than ever, I need to fight for my writing, to leave behind the 9-5 mindset I am still carrying and shift my writing perspective from hobby to priority. I may have physically left, but my mind is still holding on to the extra baggage, the bad habits that kept me away from my writing for too long. I am still trying to figure this out but am thankful for the awareness, the humble reminder that writing is more than playing with nouns and verbs, shaping stories onto paper; it’s the mindset, the discipline, the fire to come back day after day, finding the time to sit, write, rinse and repeat, no matter what.
I came to the woods to find myself, to write, but it’s up to me to do the work, pen to paper, and write it all down.
Cristina Crouth is a millennial who left her job in search of a great adventure (and less burnout). She's a member of The Writers Circle and is on a year-long road trip from California to New York, managing to fit everything she owns into a 2018 Subaru named Sylvia. She's worked in mental health and trauma for the past 12 years and believes in the healing power of storytelling, now trying to share that healing spirit with her own stories.
You can follow Cristina's adventures and writing at @Cristina_Adventures16 or by clicking here.
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