Mindless Deliberations

I lost February. I lost it right after the first snowfall on February 3rd when the temperature dropped below freezing, and stayed there.

Meteorologists proclaimed this February our coldest on record, but in all fairness to Real Winter enthusiasts, we have to remember we’re talking about the BC southwest coast. This is not Ontario. Where I live, the temperature never quite made it down to -10°C and the most snow we had on the ground at any one time was 20 cm. (For those of you who prefer the other version, that’s 14°F  and 8 inches.) But my hubby has been able to mow the lawns during some Februarys, so this one was definitely a shock to our systems.

Of course, in mid-February our Canadian federal politics leapt into the spotlight and after repeated ‘explosive’ events* (the media’s chosen buzz word for them, not mine), my brain began withdrawing, so it’s no wonder I became oblivious to the passing days.

It was today, when I belatedly turned the calendar page and discovered March, that I realized February had gone missing. Somewhere, hiding in its wings, were three family birthdays and the arrival of a great-grandlittle. In fact, there was much busy-ness on many fronts, but apparently nothing that I consciously attributed to February.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not unhappy to see March. I’ve had it with winter, and am more than ready for Spring! It just troubles me that I wasn’t aware my brain had gone on hiatus. Psychology Today says that, like driving on a familiar route may result in getting home with little-to-no memory of the trip, “being on autopilot is likely to happen during any activity that you can perform automatically. By definition, automatic activities are those that require little in the way of conscious guidance.”** There were several things I probably did on autopilot during February, but recognizing that isn’t going to bring the month back. Only two months into 2019 and it’s already shorter than it’s meant to be.

I don’t lose things very often. I’m pretty good about remembering appointments, too. But time? Time slips away at an ever-increasing speed and I have no idea where it goes. If I’m functioning on autopilot next time you see me, give me a knock on the noggin and make me pay attention. I can’t afford to lose March. February’s loss was bad enough.

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* Referring to the resignation and pushback from Jody Wilson-Raybould over SNC-Lavalin; the resignation of her friend and fellow MP Jane Philpott; and the earlier decision of MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes not to run in the next election — all three, as the National Post says, “remarkable, accomplished women, one black, one Indigenous, one a white doctor from Markham, Ontario, who were part of our self-appointed feminist prime minister’s obsession with gender balance. They were among the new people invited in, but expected to play by all the old rules. For a while, they appeared to thrive in the super-heated, high-pressure world of federal politics, until they didn’t.

** https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/mental-mishaps/201404/the-dangers-going-autopilot

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Happy New Year: 2019

This morning’s snowfall didn’t last all that long, but it seemed appropriate for the start of a new year. There’s something fresh and hopeful about a landscape blanketed in pristine softness. It’s akin to beginning a brand new journal, opening a calendar to the first of twelve untouched months, or stepping onto a beach where the outgoing tide has left the sand shiny and smooth, waiting for fresh footprints.

a beginning
filled with
unspoken promises
of new opportunities

Wishing you the exhilaration of a fresh start.

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“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
plans for welfare and not for evil,
to give you a future and a hope.”

[Jeremiah 29:11]


“One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind

and straining toward what is ahead,
I press on toward the goal…”
[Philippians 3:13–14)

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Out with the old, in with the new (not years)

Who still has hanging flower baskets blooming in December here in the Pacific Northwest? Even the local nursery has abandoned attempts to keep theirs presentable so I’m not sure why mine are still growing. Admittedly, the blooms are few and small, but geraniums are geraniums, regardless of size, right?

My hubby had taken all the other tubs of anemic annuals off the deck in mid-October after Thanksgiving, and carried the patio furniture down to the basement where it will wait out the winter months. But the baskets still provided a minimal bit of cheerful colour as they dangled outside our family room windows.

At least, they did until this weekend’s frost. Despite the protection of the overhanging eaves, sometime during Friday night they shivered themselves out of attractive into bedraggled. Without its tiny white blossoms the bacopa maybe didn’t look too bad, but everything else…? Meh!

Yesterday we ventured out to a tree farm and cut our Christmas tree, and as my hubby was setting it into its stand this afternoon, he decided it was finally time to remove the waning greenery.

I kind of hate to see the baskets go. They’ve hung there since early May and survived through blustery late spring winds, summer holiday neglect and torrents of fall rain. I feel like I owe them something in exchange for their persistence.

Then again, it IS Advent now and the outside Christmas lights twinkling above them seem a bit incongruous.

So, “out with the old and in with the new”…greenery, that is. The sickly lantana and geranium leaves have gone to compost heaven and from the other side of the window pane I’m now enjoying the fragrance of fresh fir adorned with cheery baubles, not blossoms.

I’m sure I could find a writing analogy in this if I tried hard enough, but at the moment I’d rather just sit here squinting at the tree lights and pondering Advent thoughts. Taken totally out of context I am reminded of an applicable scripture verse:

“…the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 🙂  [2 Corinthians 5:17b]

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Wishing you abundant Hope on this
first Sunday in Advent.

 

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Time Out for Renewal

Many of us love renewing our homes (ahem…yes, guilty). Most love shopping to refresh wardrobes (meh…not so much). Some love travelling to discover new locales (hmmm…it depends on the locale). Too few of us take time out to renew, refresh or discover ourselves.

It could be as simple as snatching ten minutes to sip tea on the porch, a morning to wander or work in the garden, or a day to turn aside from social media and focus on something we’ve been wanting to do just for ourselves. Summertime is when we are most likely to take a break, but there is no ‘right’ season. For writers, it might be whenever the words are piling up against an invisible barricade; for parents, when exasperation is approaching an explosion point; or maybe for workers, when demands of the job have become numbing.

(Consider clicking on photo to enlarge)

None of those scenarios really describes my situation, but I am taking some time out to renew something important to me. August is usually my time to escape from social media. It’s my scheduled ‘time out for renewal’. My camera and I will capture my under-the-radar doings and share them when I re-emerge.

What will you be up to in August? Are you planning anything that will help you renew, refresh or discover?

~

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
[Romans 12:2]

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”
[Jeremiah 31:25]

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No, You’re (Still) Not Ready to Publish

From my 2011 archives…

Don’t you hate it when the Inner Critic is right? After years of being shoved aside and trampled, he gloats over fleeting opportunities to jump up and down and yell, “I told you so!” and it’s so annoying.

It’s not easy to admit, but many of us are probably among the 99.9% of writers who mistakenly thought our brilliantly written and endlessly polished first novels were ready for launching. In hindsight we know better, but at the time we were enthusiastic about their chances in the market.

I read of one writer who said, “Don’t tell me first novels never sell. If I believed that, why would I bother to finish mine?” When we first begin writing, the naïve mindset is like a protective cloak… “we don’t know what we don’t know.”

My husband quotes one of his professors as cautioning, “For the first ten years in ministry, don’t preach on Revelation. After that you’ll know better than to preach on Revelation.”  As writers we could use a similar admonition — something along the lines of, “Write your heart out on the first book but steel yourself to the reality that it’s only a learning experience.”

Reality sucks! But it’s not as if we expect a new surgeon to immediately perform brain surgery, or a beginning athlete to compete in the Olympics, so why do we expect our first novel should be bestseller material?

Anne Allen wrote an excellent post on “12 signs your novel isn’t ready to publish.” She directed it to those who were tempted to self-publish too soon, but her ideas make good sense for all of us seeking publication. I particularly like the simplicity and sense of her comment, “All beginners make mistakes. Falling down and making a mess is part of any learning process. But you don’t have to display the mess to the world.”

Yes, we worked darned hard on that story and we’d like to reap some benefit from the effort. Well, guess what? We did. The benefit is in the education. We read and wrote and learned. Part of what we learned is how little we actually knew before we began the process. Part of what we will learn tomorrow is how little we know today.

When more experienced writers warned me about the Inner Critic’s unreliability, they didn’t suggest how to react on the odd occasions when he might be right. I’m sorry, but there’s no being graceful in the face of his taunts.

“I’m learning with experience. So shut up already!”

If someone knowledgeable told you the book you are currently writing would never sell, would you finish it anyway, or stop where you are?

~

Ostrich Photo by anankkml

Winter’s Worn Out Its Welcome

We’ve arrived at the second weekend in March. Did you remember this is when our clocks jump forward an hour (not on their own, of course; you have to change them) and our bodies rebel at losing an hour’s sleep?

I dislike these biannual time changes. There was a purpose for Daylight Saving Time way back in 1916 when it was first introduced in Germany to save electricity, but I’d be happy to keep one or the other — either Saving or Standard time — and not have to change back and forth.

What I DO like about mid-March is the coming official start of Spring on March 20th. We’ve finally taken down the front door plaque that says ‘Winter Welcome’, because winter has worn out its welcome around here. I’m tired of it. I want the snow to go away and let the buried crocuses show their cheery colours. It’ll be a while before the mini-avalanches disappear. Our shake roof relieved itself of several loads, one of which landed on the back deck, and I imagine that pile is going to be there for a while.

My hubby likes to say we are an Easter people, and Sunday morning at our church one more candle on the Lenten wreath will be extinguished, bringing us another week closer to Easter. As the Lenten material says,

Lent is a season that focuses our attention on discipleship.  It pushes us to examine ourselves and the many ways we have turned away from God.  Rather than a shallow giving up of personal pleasures, Lent invites us to give up those things that have pulled us away from God and take up those things that draw us toward Him.”

I like March. It’s a forward-looking month and right now I’m all about saying goodbye to Winter and looking ahead to all that is to come.

Now, it’s an hour later than my clocks are proclaiming. Time to change them and go to bed, even if it’s a bit early for me. I’m going to need all the hours of sleep I can get tonight!

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Thoughts on not much of anything…

A reprise from 2009. I hope you don’t mind.

~

I’ve been thinking. What I write here varies with my mood, but the two topics that most often turn up in this blog are my novel writing and my locale. If you were a fly on the wall here, you’d understand why that’s so.

In this semi-rural retreat I call home, I am surrounded by trees, a bit of wildlife, and the stillness that makes for a perfect sanctuary. Nighttime moonlight flits between the darkened trees to find its way through the french doors beside my bed. Morning sunlight filters through trees to bring its warmth into the livingroom.

With hands wrapped around a coffee mug I stand at the bank of windows in our kitchen/family room and check out the slash of deer tracks punctuating the leftover snow in a sheltered corner of the back yard, and watch a lone Towhee who has arrived on the deck for its breakfast. There is no place I’d rather be. When my thoughts settle into this groove my subjects are home and hearth.

Other times my mental closet of plots and process reaches spillover stage and the ideas that tumble out are random aspects of novel writing — the quirks of the Muse, character development, storylines, revision frustrations, even agents and rejection dejection.

There isn’t a lot of logic to why and when creativity clicks into gear or what writing will result when it does. I’ve learned the important thing is not so much what I write but that I write. My responsibility is to keep trying and eventually I become a channel for ideas that need to materialize. Then I simply have to find an appropriate title to attach and launch the creation into cyberspace.

So, with that revelation, here’s today’s contribution. (Not much content, is there? It’s indicative of the state of my morning brain.)

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Yes, it’s November

Halloween buzzed by in the blink of an eye, and suddenly it’s November. We had some gorgeous fall colours happening until a windstorm whipped through and removed many of the brighter leaves. Now the first snowfall is waiting in the wings for tonight, suggesting autumn is going to be a short, sweet season.

I’m sad about that. Fall is always my favourite, with many flowers still blooming and not-too-hot-but-still-pleasant days. I console myself by repeating, “But it IS November now.”

Along with November comes NaNoWriMoNational Novel Writing Month. I started participating (albeit half-heartedly) in 2006 and, while I rarely succeed in completing a brand new 50,000-word novel in November’s thirty days, I do use the month to focus on my writing, and am usually happy with what I accomplish.

This year author Denise Jaden is offering WriMos daily emailed encouragement and writing prompts, and critique partner Katherine Wagner has established a Facebook NaNo support group linked to the Golden Ears Writers group.

The purpose is to spur writers on toward their individual goals, and support their efforts because — face it — writing isn’t as easy as some folks might think. Sometimes  words flow, but other times they drip, one excruciatingly slow drop at a time.

Occasionally I attend a write-in — WriMos who gather in one location to provide moral support (and peer pressure!) for each other during a specific period of writing. Ours are usually held in the local branch of our public library — a much quieter location than a Starbucks or cafe. Some writers like the stimulation of a busy location while others (me!) prefer silence and solitude. It stretches my introverted nature to attend write-ins, but I also like to support my fellow writers, so I compromise and go once in a while.

What’s your preference? And are you participating in NaNoWriMo 2017 or other writing-focused endeavour this month? Whatever the case, this is the month for it…because after November comes December, and we all know how much writing we’re likely to get done then!

I’m off to chalk up some words. Happy NaNo-ing!

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Private Spaces

The phrase, “a room of one’s own” is forever linked to feminist author Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), as the title of her famous 1929 essay, but it has been adopted by many of us who long for a space specifically designed to meet our personal taste and needs.

I thought of that this morning while reading a blog post by Katrina Kenison. She calls it “Making Room“. She has just turned 59 and finds herself wishing for somewhere other than at her kitchen table to write —  “a place in which some new work might begin to take shape, privately and quietly” away from the hustle of her everyday household.

“My sixtieth year has begun with an urgent longing for quiet time and open-ended hours and, too, for a space that is devoted not to many things but to one thing: the work of the imagination, the murmurings of the soul, the possibility of articulating and embodying some just-forming ideas about how to live in the world as an older person.”  [Katrina Kenison]

At the beginning of every fall, a similar yearning overtakes me, but it has nothing to do with my increasing age. At least, I don’t think it does. The odd thing is, I do have a room of my own in which to write, but I don’t often use it, which makes me think it has more to do with attitude than age or location.

I’m always anxious to recapture the sense of mystery and adventure that accompanies the start of a new season or a new writing project. It’s akin to the delight of discovery in the story of A Secret Garden, but then again, I suppose that story did have a lot to do with place. And age. Hmmm. Well, never mind. Should place and age really determine the extent of a person’s creativity? What is it that makes a room of one’s own so appealing?

Katrina says it would mean not having to clear her writing materials off the kitchen table and make room for her family’s next meal.

There’s that, of course, but I suspect it’s also the ability to surround oneself with favourite things — things that inspire us — or to spread out our tools however we might prefer, and not have to answer to anyone else for our choices (or the mess). It’s that sense of privacy and personal space a closed door gives us — the opportunity to retreat into the backcountry of our minds without distraction.

KatherineSome of my friends have created personal writing spaces. In the past year Katherine Wagner repurposed an upstairs bedroom into a library/writing room with a view over her exquisite back garden, and Dawn Dalton’s hubby built her a separate writing hut, a la Roald Dahl’s, in their back yard.

What a treat to be able to indulge ourselves with such special spaces! I should feel guilty that I don’t make better use of mine. That I don’t, suggests my creative efforts don’t depend on an inspiring environment, but that’s not entirely true.

Where I most often sit with my laptop is in my family room. My recliner is adjacent to a wall of windows that overlook the ‘backyard’ — a rural haven surrounded by trees with a somewhat overgrown arbour leading to the unseen marsh beyond. It’s private and quiet. That’s pretty much all I need when I’m writing.

The environment we crave is as individual as the words each of us produces. The main thing is to identify what we require to produce those words and then get writing.

“When I am up here I see only the paper I am writing on, and my mind is far away with Willy Wonka or James or Mr Fox or Danny or whatever else I am trying to cook up. The room itself is of no consequence. It is out of focus, a place for dreaming and floating and whistling in the wind, as soft and silent and murky as a womb…”  [Roald Dahl, ‘Roald Dahl: From the Inside Out – the Author Speaks’]

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“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.” [Virginia Woolf]

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Now it’s your turn. Tell me, what’s your ideal writing environment or location? Is your creativity dependent on being in that space?

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