2020

A House Is Not A Home

by Jonathan Norton

This piece of writing is some weird form of therapy I can’t explain.

Here goes.

The last few weeks of 2019 I was nearing burnout. 2019 was a great year for me professionally. But I also spent most of it carrying so much anxiety in my body and I didn’t know why.

Fortunately, I had two weeks off for the holidays and I chose to hide myself away in my apartment. I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas alone… on purpose. I found the quiet incredibly healing and I did not want to leave that space of stillness.

Mostly I ate. Drank. Enjoyed HGTV, and YouTube. Watched Beyoncé’s Homecoming on Netflix over and over. What I did not do was write - a damn thing - and it felt good.  

I realized eating good food, House Hunters marathons, You Tube, and Beyoncé dance parties belong in my home. Stressing over character arcs, metaphor, structure, generating pages, artistic statements, and deadlines. Those belong somewhere else. Not my home.

Toward the very end of the holiday I started back writing, but I decided to try something new. I only wrote on the weekends and always outside my home. No writing at all Monday through Friday, except for outlining or big thinking - in my head - never on paper. 

Weekends I got up early and headed to Dallas Theater Center to write. Not writing all week gave me a flood of energy and focus. Most weekends I spent six to eight hours per day writing at DTC. Sometimes more. And I was incredibly productive. By the end of January, I completed a full-length play, 110 pages. Overall writing time - eight days.

I looked forward to getting up on weekend mornings to head out to write. And after writing I enjoyed not feeling any obligation to write for the remainder of the week. I spent the week refilling my cup and pouring it all out on the weekend. I had my evenings after work to recharge however I pleased. This carried me through March.

I found my groove again. Balance.

Then the pandemic struck. The shutdowns happened.

I somehow found ways to welcome writing back into my home. Like a homeless ex you feel sorry for. Where else do they have to go? So, we shared space together. I tried to make it work. But my heart was not in it.

But I trudged along… until this week… this last week in May…  and yet another Black life lost to state sanctioned murder of Black people… and a feeling of creative paralysis invades.

And creative paralysis is different from burnout. 

I’ve developed tools to overcome burnout. But not creative paralysis.

Perhaps it is time to be still again.

In the last few days I’ve come to realize that my writing-based anxiety and sleeplessness was not due to character arcs, metaphor, structure, generating pages, artistic statements, and deadlines. It wasn’t the “what.” Instead my anxiety was due to the “why” and “who.” I was stressing over work and opportunities with/for predominantly white institutions. And at this precise moment, that thought troubles me greatly. I was letting that energy into my home - my sacred space – and my spirit was rejecting it. It was time to create some boundaries. To be clear, I love my work, but it needs a space other than my home to take up shop. 

This little spot near Walnut Hill Lane is off limits.

In solidarity with my sisters and brothers in:

 Minneapolis

 Louisville

Tallahassee

Brunswick

and my home - Dallas, Fort Worth

Find more of Jonathan's work at www.nortonscriptworks.com