Creative Non-Writing

It  takes a lot of energy to not write. Or, in my case, to not work on my main project, the new novel. Each day I wake up and say, yes, this is the day–and, more often than not, I end the day in disappointment for not having met this commitment to myself.

I tell myself that yes, I am writing. On recent travels, of which there have been several, I keep a detailed notebook of my experiences, many of which will be expanded, exaggerated, pulled like taffy until they no longer resemble what really happened. Case in point: recently I took my first kayaking trip. Later, I sent a group of my characters on a kayaking trip, and I tipped one of the boats. It’s not what happened, though it represents my fear of what could have happened.

So, I tell myself, nothing is wasted. At least I’m writing. Sometimes my blogs are a way to knock the rust off and put something, anything, out there.

Still, my travels have taught me something. On our recent trip to Vancouver and Vancouver Island, we visited a number of sensational gardens, the crowning glory of which were the Butchart Gardens near Victoria. We fell in love with Vancouver Island and are already talking about when we can go back. My husband, Henry, talked about an extended visit. “Here’s the problem,” I said. “We’re going to see all these great gardens, but I have one of my own at home. I don’t want to just enjoy the work of others, I want to do the work myself.”

Same thing with writing. I am reading some wonderful books right now. On our trip, I was introduced to the art and writings of Emily Carr, one of Canada’s most beloved eccentric figures. Her written words roll around in my mouth like chocolate, filled with imagery as distinct as her paintings. I wish I could do that, I tell myself. Then, why don’t you? Why don’t you? It’s great to read her words–certainly, writers should be tireless readers–but what am I waiting for? It’s time to get my own words on the page.

Henry and I talked about it when we came home. I told him of the troubles I was having with the novel, how the beginning, which students in a writing class had oohed and aahed over, caused me to paint myself into a corner. I was faced with a dilemma of a character wanting to hijack the whole story. I had two choices: allow her to do so and to see what happened, or continue my original vision, which involved a group of women. I decided on the latter, promising Claire that she still gets to be the star of the show. I sat down and rewrote the beginning, creating a totally different starting point that lets everyone introduce herself. The next morning, I woke up with new ideas of what to change, add, and to write next. That’s when I know I’m back to work!

Truth is, I’m harder to live with when I’m not writing. Heaviness covers me like a winter cloak, and I become resentful. The more I don’t write, the more I fear writing, so then I walk around with that layer of fear as well. Exhausted, I let the needs of others become more important, and I don’t insist on my writing time. If nothing else, I am incredibly creative in my procrastination. When I am writing, I feel energized. Back in the days of my life in the corporate world, I wrote on my lunch hour and felt totally refreshed when starting my afternoon. I may tell you in times of writer’s block that I’m too tired to write, but that’s not true. Writing, especially when I am tired, is the best thing I can do for myself.

Still, I’m back on track. I’ve solved the first problem of the novel, and now I will work toward the others. I’m about to go out of town again on a volunteer trip, and my plan is to find a way to write each day, even if it’s just a page or two, but to keep the novel going.

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