Awaiting a Transformation: Butterflies, Bathrooms and Books

Butterflies returned to our garden this week. I see them flitting from one bright bloom to another. This one’s favourite spot to hover seems to be the lilac bush beside our back deck.

Butterfly-2

I’ve been hovering out there a lot, too, escaping the dust and noise of the bathroom renovation inside. Not that it’s been a negative experience … the renovation has been going smoothly, well supervised by the cheerful and very efficient contractor. It’s the disruption of our usual household routine, having people coming and going every day, and trying to maintain separation between our curious Labrador and the busy workmen.

This weekend, as work winds to a conclusion, we have a second Labrador here — we’re dog sitting — and she isn’t so much curious as she is affronted at strangers being allowed in our house. We keep shushing her barks and assuring her that they are no longer strangers to us, and they’re creating something new and beautiful out of our twenty-five year old bathroom. Like the butterfly, it has undergone a metamorphosis. (You’re going to be subjected to photos next week.)

Butterfly-3

Metamorphosis is a fascinating process (at least, in butterflies, although there are similarities with our bathroom).

First, an egg has to be produced, the larva or caterpillar has to hatch and be nurtured. Then it must pupate while the transformation takes place. And finally, after about a month, the adult butterfly emerges.

In our bathroom metamorphosis, the seed of an idea was first produced, followed by a period of planning, researching products, and finding a contractor. Then we watched and waited as the actual transformation happened. Finally, almost a month later, we’re about to reveal the finished room.

Interesting … it occurs to me that writing a book is a whole lot like this same process. Granted, a book takes me considerably longer than a month to produce, but in due time it comes to fruition. Now, if I could always ensure the end result would be as lovely as my bathroom or the butterfly, I’d be content!:)

~  ~  ~

Hanging on to the Inconsequential

They’re scattered everywhere, and at our house if you get up in the middle of the night as I occasionally do, you really need to watch your step.

Cushion-1

I’m quite partial to the décor choices of interior designer Candice Olson. Until her television program, ‘Divine Design’, moved to a channel we don’t get, I watched it faithfully. I also ‘like’ her Facebook page. On it today was a post about a bedroom she decorated, with an explanation of its features:

“To add warmth and personality to this bedroom, we snuggled a settee between two cabinets. Not only did this settee allow us to introduce interesting fabrics and visual warmth in the space, but it serves as that perfectly placed bed pillow catcher!”

That’s when it struck me. Why have we fallen into the decorating trap of piling pillows everywhere?

Before my hubby and I can crawl into bed each night, we must first remove seven pillows. Seven! There’s a pair with quilted shams that match our duvet, another colour-matched sleep-sized pair, two smaller hand stitched matelassé ones plus a square accent cushion.

Cushions-3

Cushions on our living room and family room couches look nice, but every time I sit down I first have to re-arrange them to make room. Often as not they end up on the floor.

Cushion-2

So what purpose do they serve? Other than adding a pretty splash of colour, I’m not convinced of their value, but I can’t imagine tossing them out. They may be a nuisance, but I’m used to them. They’re part of the décor.

In some ways it’s a little like useless passages in our writing – bits of description, mundane dialogue, interesting but unimportant scenes – all inconsequential and irrelevant as far as moving the story forward. They’re of no value but we like writing them and they can be hard to cut. We’ve all heard the saying, “Kill your darlings.” So, should we be ruthless in eliminating them, or does it really matter?

~  ~  ~

Does God do it on purpose?

I’m convinced He does … do it on purpose, that is. With the arrival of every spring season I comment constantly on the wonderful progression of new colours.

DSC08850

Winters on the southwest coast of Canada aren’t extreme, and, while my lawns may remain green throughout, full of moss as they are, deciduous branches everywhere are bare. The woods are stark, the marsh beige and lifeless. The underbrush along roadsides is brown with last summer’s dead grasses and ferns, and rain falls frequently, dampening everything to a grey sodden mess.

Out of the dirt and winter debris of our late January garden poke spiky little green tips from which nodding white snowdrops emerge. On our property they are always the first hint of the coming new season.  They’re delicate … a quiet transition from the winter landscape. From then on, we start discovering a green haze that begins to spread through the woods and gardens. I love all the new greens in their fresh shades of lime and harlequin and chartreuse playing among the darker evergreens. Every spring I exclaim over how many different shades of green there are.

Suddenly I begin discovering splashes of non-green and white shades. Mostly yellows and pinks and purples. Hellebores and Daphne.  Crocuses, Daffodils, Forsythia. Cherry blossoms and Magnolia. (Not all in my yard, you understand, but throughout the community.)

I’m convinced God intended this succession of colours and blooming times. It’s as if He knew we needed a gradual handover from bleakness to beauty, testing and tantalizing our senses with pastels before the bold and brash colours are ready to burst upon us.

DSC08849

Tulips and Iris, and the dependable Rhododendrons and Azaleas are just arriving now … later springtime surprises. It’s wonderful!  God is much better at planning the seasonal colours than I am at planning a story. He’s such a well organized artist!

~  ~  ~

 

 

Putting My Imagination to Work

In one of my posts back in 2009 I made a comment about imagination…

“Imagination is a fascinating phenomenon. With it the writer’s mind creates people who don’t exist, places that have never been, events that didn’t happen, and somehow combines them to create a world that readers accept as real.”

Such imagination can be found in more than fiction.

During Spring Break I accompanied my DIL and granddaughter to a local nursery. Their goal was to find a few plants and accessories to make a Fairy Garden.

IMG_3300

No, this isn’t her garden; it’s mine!

This is where I admit to a love of little woodland hideaways and secret places. Stories like The Secret Garden and Alice in Wonderland that feature wild, abandoned gardens or hidden worlds accessed via a rabbit hole still fascinate me as an adult.

I’ve coveted every fairy garden I’ve ever seen, and yet never taken the initiative to create one for myself. I’m not sure what prompted me, but last week, after acquiring a few leftover plants from my granddaughter’s, I set out to make one, too.

IMG_3303

The one resident fairy is probably lonely as she basks in the shade of her miniature gypsy-style wagon, but the garden’s not finished yet. And once it is, I have another project along similar lines, although that one may require some assistance from my hubby. There are a couple stumps in our woodsy acreage, and ever since seeing the video about “The Gnomist”, I’ve been wanting to add a little door or two … access to a tiny new Gnome’s ghome in my woodland garden.:)

It’s all just my goofy imagination at work, but at my age I figure people will forgive my lapse into early senility. After all, we never really outgrow the need to indulge in a bit of whimsy, do we?

If you’ve never seen “The Gnomist” you might enjoy taking a few minutes to view it now. The story behind it is very special. (A Kleenex or two would be wise. Be forewarned.)

~

Are you tempted to add a little whimsy to your life now, too?

~  ~  ~

Céad Mile Fáilte — Yes, welcome!

Although I’m a second (third?) generation Canadian, on St. Patrick’s Day I always enjoy taking advantage of my vaguely Irish roots. I haven’t been spending much time here on the blog, so no “new” post today, but if you’d like to catch up on some of my earlier Irish-hued entries, you could click back into the archives:

2009 and again in 2014 – A Green Moment in Time

2010 – Spreading the Green Around

2011 – The Luck o’ the Irish and Other Blessings

2012 – An Irish Recipe and a Blessing

2013 – Going Green?

I apparently missed posting anything last year, but there’s enough now to keep you reading for a while, if you’re so inclined. And if you needed a little Irish song (with men in kilts, no less) to set the mood, you might like this…

Go n-éiri an bóthar leat

~  ~  ~

 

Spring Things and Other Excuses

I haven’t gone AWOL, but I admit to ignoring my blog recently. It’s one of those priority things I mentioned a couple weeks ago — I had to decide if writing posts was a bigger priority right now than family, work commitments, the mess that passes for our slowly-unwintering garden, and my ongoing novel writing. It wasn’t, so blog posts lost out.

Lilac Buds

The annual ‘March Madness’ challenge with my #wipmadness gang began on March 1st. ‘Speedbo’, a similar effort involving the Seekerville peeps, also started then. AND my garden began showing signs of spring. Next weekend Daylight Saving Time will begin, and we’ll lose an hour that I won’t be able to find again until November.

Everyday life still has its share of obstacles this month, too, so if I don’t plop new posts into this space quite as often as usual, please don’t hold it against me. In fact, you might even consider joining me in the writing frenzy. We can keep each other accountable since excuses don’t wash under scrutiny.

wipmadness borders badge

Speedbo2016 (2) (1)

~  ~  ~

 

Writing Time vs Online Time (It’s all about balance)

I did say this post would be coming last ‘Friday’, didn’t I? Mmm, yes. This isn’t Friday, is it? Some bloggers might be inclined to say, “Oh, well, suck it up and let’s get on with it.” Personally, I wouldn’t think that was a polite way to respond. I’m more the apologetic type. “So sorry,” I’ll say. “Unavoidable interruptions. Sincere apologies.” Now suck it up and let’s carry on.

We writers sometimes need a jolt to unsettle our complacency. In my previous post I mentioned a comment from a book I’m currently reading by Jeff Goins. I went to his website for the URL to share with you, started reading his post and that’s where I got today’s jolt.

“…what do writers do? They write. There’s nothing mystical or magical about it — you just have to show up and commit to doing the work. Place butt in chair, fingers on keys, and start typing. And this, of course, is where most writers fail. They never actually write a word. They talk about writing, think about writing, even read about writing. But they do not write.”

I think that makes last week’s post even more appropriate. Not only is our “crazy social media platform maintenance” frenzy a form of stalling, the talking, thinking and reading about writing are all equally effective deterrents to any success.

It’s decision time. Time to make strategic choices that will provide the resources we need while allowing us to spend the majority of our time pursuing our creativity. So, what will those choices look like? Take a moment to…um, I’d say smell the roses, but it’s too early for them…so maybe just admire the snowdrops (they’re everywhere in my garden right now), then grab your notebook and start planning.

Winter Snowdrops

(Winter Snowdrops – Galanthus)

  • Restrict social media networks to the few that are the most useful

We agree: we can’t do it all. Ideally, the best networks will be the ones where we encounter people of similar interests, the sites where we will find the information that is most suited to our purpose or that will reach the most people who are likely to be interested in our product or subject matter. It isn’t necessary to constantly explore cyberspace. Once we’ve found them, settle on a select few sites.

I have a group of writing friends on Facebook in addition to my family, church and purebred dog connections, so next to my blog, that’s my network of preference. I check in on Twitter occasionally, but don’t spend much time there, I recently quit Google+, and I’ve avoided Pinterest entirely because I know it’s addictive.

My list of regularly visited blogs and websites have been whittled down considerably this year to include those of a handful of friends, fellow authors, and writing mentors, the Seekerville writing community, and a couple inspirational sites. That’s not to say I don’t occasionally visit some that are on my earlier lists, or go to places like Amazon and home-decorating sites, but they are no longer places to dally on a daily basis or let eat into my writing time.

  • Allot specific amounts of time to spend online

How long do we realistically need to check and respond to e-mail, to peruse a limited number of favourite blogs or websites, to do the research for a particular writing project? Determine that ahead of time and set a timer. Knowing it’s counting down should keep us more focused on our task and less inclined to dawdle. Once our ‘social’ time is over and we move on to the day’s work, I try to resist checking in online every few minutes. If it’s a writing day I might work for an hour and then allow myself a ten minute break to check for messages, get a Coke or a coffee, and carry on. Your daily tasks will be different from mine, depending on your day job, family responsibilities, and other commitments. How much time we allot to social media is up to us but we need to be disciplined, honest and realistic about how we ration it.

  • Include opportunities to ‘give back’ to the writing community

It’s easy for writers to become immersed in our fictional worlds and believe the online hype we try to create is all about us. It’s not. We relish the support and encouragement of those we look up to, those whose efforts have brought them success, and in turn we should be ready to offer what help we can to others. Whether it’s leaving comments of encouragement, interviewing newcomers on our blogs or offering book reviews on places like Amazon and Goodreads, we can show appreciation by giving back, regardless of our level of expertise or inexperience.

  • Schedule time into the day for creative refuelling

Whatever our workday consists of, it’s important to make sure we carve out a niche for personal refreshment. (And that doesn’t mean to go blog-hopping!) Some of my favourite writing books aren’t actually on the craft itself, but on nurturing the writer within. Julia Cameron recommends artist’s dates — going for a walk, visiting an art gallery or museum, spending quiet time in an environment that is personally rejuvenating. It can be a whole afternoon, or just fifteen minutes. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s “me time”.

That’s about it. I’m not all that proficient when it comes to how I spend my online time, but I’m trying to be intentional about it. When I succeed, I’m surprised at how much more I get done in a day.

As for those links I promised, here’s a list in random order of some of the more helpful writing sites I particularly like (no, I don’t visit them everyday, and you’d better not, either!):

Writer UnboxedWriter’s Digest, Anne R. AllenK.M. Weiland, Jessica Morrell, Chip MacGregor, Rachelle GardnerJane Friedman, The Write Life, Seekerville, The Writer’s Alley, Write to Done, Story Fix: Larry Brooks, The Kill Zone (Hey, don’t raise your eyebrows; I write cozy mysteries!), Jeff Goins, Pub Rants, Molly Greene, Kirsten Lamb, Live-Write-Thrive: CS Lakin, Jody Hedlund, Agent Query, Writer Beware, Preditors & Editors, The Passive Voice: The Lawyer Guy, American Christian Fiction Writers, The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, Writers Helping Writers, Absolute Write WaterCooler Forum, Bookends Literary Agency blogWriting World: Moira Allen (blog has concluded, but has sixteen years of archived articles). 

~

DSC08746

~  ~  ~