In Like a Lion, In Like a Lamb: Whatever, as Long as it’s In

A new story entices me. I hear, from time to time, brief whispers of phrases, sentences, dialogue. I glimpse a character or two, milky ghosts that have not yet taken form. March, I had promised myself, would bring a new story in like a lion. Several years ago, when a long illness took away my writing for a time, I learned to keep my promises. My mind, programmed with “March,” is starting to work. Perhaps I need to rethink March–I’m ready now.

In the meantime, I have felt in limbo. Our recent move kept me preoccupied, but now the largest tasks are complete, and the rest can be handled in the nooks and crannies of my week. Returning to the writing routine has been gradual, tentative. I feel a lull, a postpartum depression after completing Patchwork and Blood and Loam, two big projects, at nearly the same time. Yet, I write. A blog here, an article there–two articles last week. I queried an agent about my novel. I tinkered with Exodus and posted the introduction last week. These are necessary tasks that keep my fingers on the keyboards. They feel like scales on the piano. Since I am a tactile person, I “think” with my fingers. The more I type, the more I awaken slumbering ideas.

Wakening my storyteller also involves relaxing and playing. I’m a stout-hearted Midwesterner with a Puritan work ethic, so relaxing and playing do not come naturally. I have to coax myself. Yet this week I have booked a facial (a reward for losing five pounds) and a massage. We are off soon to Costa Rica and a nature-filled adventure. All of these things help me dial down my natural intensity so I can put my imagination onto the page instead of into the intrigues of my life.

I’ve learned, however, that satisfying the work ethic helps me write, too. To that end I have worked extensively in the garden, building a raised bed, fertilizing, mulching, and finally, planting. The combination of physical labor and digging my hands in the dirt reminds me that stories spring like seedlings, and, if well tended, grow into tall tomatoes, exquisite flowering bushes that invite butterflies and hummingbirds, and abundant herbs that, when picked, grow even more.

People who want to write but don’t often say they are waiting for inspiration. Then, they think books will write themselves. Well, sometimes that happens, and I’m certainly open to the concept. For me, though, writing involves a regular, daily practice of writing, study, and doing those things that feed the writer within. Some days, inspiration comes, but most days I put one foot in front of the other, keeping faith that the work will bear fruit. Perhaps March will not come in like a lion, but a lamb…that would be fine, as long as I am writing at all. I welcome the advent of spring and its newness, and the new creation that wants to be born.

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