Blowing things off
Because the best holidays are the ones you make for yourself.
I wasn’t going to write this newsletter.
Because I had a low-level migraine for the better part of this week.
Because that migraine is the result of a too-much, too-busy, too-everything year.
Because I’m fried. (People tell me I have a problem with saying yes to too many things, and, yes, they’re right: I’m uncomfortable if I’m not doing something).
But then I read an essayette, “Blowing it off,” in Ross Gay’s Book of Delights, and I thought about what a delight it is to blow things off. I thought about how some of the most joyous times of my life occurred when I skipped school or skipped work or just decided to pretend that something didn’t matter (“decided to pretend” is the key cognitive moment here).
We know the dangers of blowing things off, but I think we tend to forget the joys. The harumphing march of our lives possesses such a bossy vigor and insistence that it can smother our need to drift, meander, disappear.
Blowing things off can be interpreted as a way to listen to yourself.
Blowing things off is a way to listen to the world.
The phrase “playing hooky” (such a delightful phrase itself) comes from nineteenth-century New York City slang, and it's thought to have its roots in the Dutch word hoekje, or "hide-and-seek."
We need to hide from the world to seek ourselves, in other words.
When you blow things off, it is almost as if you don’t have a choice. It’s as if you’re being pulled by a mysterious gravitational force. An invitation hangs in the air. You didn’t search for it. You found it.
Blowing things off is an act of surrender—surrendering to yourself, but also surrendering to something bigger. Surrender is a type of divine experience because we somehow become ourselves when we lose ourselves.
We are incarcerated in our shoulds, our achievements, our aspirations, our productivity, and even our goodness and our responsibilities and our pains. Sometimes we have to blow off the best in ourselves simply because there’s a pleasure at hand—and it’s important to recognize the gift of a pleasure (I hear a chorus of carpe diem … and hallelujah).
So blow off cleaning the kitchen. Blow off writing your novel. Blow off Christmas shopping. Blow off a day of work. Blow off thinking about your retirement savings. Blow off worrying if you are loved. Blow off your entire conception of being.
I probably should have blown off writing this newsletter this week. but I didn’t blow it off because thinking and writing are as real to me as the light pulsing on my skin in this cafe I’m writing in.
Trust me, I’ll blow things off in my way. Because after blowing things off, I always feel like I’ve rediscovered something. It’s the private life of the mind I’ve been lacking this year, and the only way to make room for it is to blow things off.
Because a quote
“The question isn't what are we going to do, the question is what aren't we going to do?”
Because maybe you need a how-to on the dereliction of duty
Because I’d love you to read one of my books
I write this newsletter for many reasons, but mainly just for the joy of being read and having conversations with readers. This newsletter is free, and I want it to always be free, so the best way to support my work is to buy my books or hire me to speak.
Because more about me
I am the executive director of National Novel Writing Month, the co-founder of 100 Word Story, and an Executive Producer of the upcoming TV show America’s Next Great Author. I am the author of a bunch of books and the co-host of the podcast Write-minded.
My essays on creative writing have appeared in The New York Times, Poets & Writers, Lit Hub, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer.