Sometimes the Universe Won’t Take “I Quit” for an Answer

Okay. So that was a disaster.

Three weeks of isolation and high hopes for writing Book 2 rapidly declined into weeping on the couch while watching Olympic figure skating, with crumbs of popcorn and pita chips ground into my big ugly sweater I hadn’t washed in ages.

In short: I gave up.

My back-up plan was to go into Wolfville, as I explained in my last blog, hoping to write in a beautiful public place instead of cottage isolation, but Mother Nature had other plans. It snowed every darn day, and since the drive between the cottage and town was a half hour on the highway, I chose safety over glory. (Although, the Canadian Olympic Team provided some excellent vicarious glory!)

So what then?

Well, that’s when the Universe stepped in. As soon as I got back to the city, I got a letter in the mail that one could liken to a gift from the god of your choice. I got a big grant from Arts Nova Scotia to write Book 2 of The Stowaways! (So no excuses now. I have a DEADLINE.)

But could I muster a smile? Barely. So the universe said. Okay, that’s not enough of a sign for you? How about this? And then I got news regarding a lovely recognition that I can’t tell you about because it’s top secret til April 3rd.

And could I smile then? Almost.

So the Universe said, okay, money and recognition aren’t enough to wrench you out of depression, so here’s what I’m gonna do: You’re going to spend an hour and half at your old elementary school with thirty-five grade 3/4 students. They’re going to remind you of who you are.

And that seemed to work much better.

Yup! I did my first reading today at the Halifax Independent School, the school I went to as a child. It felt like a safe place to begin, where I knew at least they would want to meet an alumna who had become a published author, even if they knew nothing of my book. It was meaningful, returning there with a proud offering in my hand, a book that was inspired in part by my time there thirty years ago.

When preparing for the reading last night, I remembered that I still had a lot of the illustrated books I’d made at that school as a child, so I fished them out from my parent’s storage room and brought them with me on my visit. I was so glad I did! The students loved these early stories as much as The Stowaways, I think because it showed them the possibility of becoming an author themselves. After all, I was once a student there, making up silly stories, too. One kid yelled “I feel inspired!” And another yelled out an entire story and then drew out all the pictures for it in ten minutes flat! (If only I could write that easily, now!)

Here’s a page from one of my early books, The Big Fat Worm, which I painted when I was 10:
The students loved laughing like the worm. (heh heh heh!)

Reading through my early books and visiting my elementary school was the boost that I needed. I didn’t need to write in isolation. Distraction wasn’t my problem – it was lack of belief in myself. I needed to be surrounded by the rawness of youth. And now I remember, I was meant to tell stories — that’s how I spent every waking minute of my childhood — on my bedroom floor, with blank paper, scissors, coloured pencils and my imagination.

That’s all.

Advertisements

Week 2 of Writing Isolation: Clearly, it Ain’t for Me

If you read my last blog, you’ll know I’m experimenting with writing in isolation. I was having trouble getting started on the dreaded second novel (because whose second novel was the big winner, right?!), so decided to try a new method to trap my muse.

I’m staying at my friend’s cottage in the outback of the Nova Scotian Valley for three weeks. Well, when I say ‘outback’, I mean cottage country overlooking a man-made lake — though it is definitely isolated this time of year. In the last week, I’ve seen a squirrel, a woodpecker, three crows and four cars. The most talking I’ve heard all week is by the lake itself — apparently lakes fart, gurgle and burp in winter. (Very amusing to someone who hasn’t conversed in a while). Oh, and I saw some rabbit tracks – which was also very exciting!! Life does exist here, but in hibernation.

So far, I can’t recommend deep isolation. Yes, I got some writing done in my first week since there are zero distractions here, but week two has been a complete failure.

I’m not lonely, as my friends keep in touch via email and send me all their support and news, so that’s not been an issue.

It’s the lack of energy, movement and sound that is boring my muse to death.

So today I drove into Wolfville, a nearby university town on the Harvest Highway; it’s Nova Scotia’s Tuscany, if you need a comparison. Hilly vineyards covered in snow, farmland swept by cold winds and eagles, all overlooking the beautiful Minas Basin. It’s stunning.

My first stop was the local bookshop, Box of Delights. I wanted to make sure they had The Stowaways on the shelf. That was a nice reminder that I am indeed a writer — they knew my book and had sold out of it. Yay! Then I walked to the public library to flog my book there — because who doesn’t want their book in every library possible?

And then, sweet world, I went to one of my favourite places in Nova Scotia: the Garden Room at Acadia University. Having purchased a great book called Osbert The Avenger, a middle grade novel written by Australian Christopher William Hill, I tore off my hat and gloves and threw myself gladly into a chair in the sun. Here was the energy I was lacking!

Garden Room

All this to say that I think we writers often dream of isolation, but in actual fact it doesn’t work for very long. I need to feel the energy of movement around me.

Which brings me to my next writing experiment: writing in public. I’ve never tried this before, and since I’m in the valley for another ten days, I am going to drive to Wolfville every day and write in the grand Garden Room by the fountain, where water drips from copper maple leaves near the grand piano that sits waiting to serve at a concert every night… well, you get it. I’m going to write in a place full of movement and potential, to see if that re-inspires me.

Life is a constant adaptation, is it not?