I’ll be honest - I nearly cried when I looked out my window this morning.
Snow fell in wet, white sheets, and the sky was gunmetal gray. Skeletal tree branches rattled in the wind, and the chickadees clung desperately to the feeder as it swayed dizzily back and forth.
It wasn’t going to be a good day.
This winter has seemed plagued to me, with illness and unrest, bitter cold and gray skies. I’ve been sick again this week, some odd combination of maladies that appeared out of nowhere.
The winter of my malcontent, I’m calling it.
So far, 2015, I am not impressed.
I had great plans for the day too - nothing scheduled outside of the house, so I was going to catch up on writing, make headway on publicity for an event involving both my handbell ensemble and the community theater I volunteer with, and maybe even do the taxes (or at least gather the paperwork - yes, I’m one of those tax procrastinators.)
But my energy and ambition fell with a wet thud, just like those snowflakes that were piling up on the porch.
Most successful writers will say it’s necessary to put yourself in inspiration’s path: show up at the page every day, don’t wait for inspiration to come find find you.
One of my favorite writers, Dani Shapiro, whose book Still Writing sits on my desk, talks about the pattern she has for her writing life. “Three pages every day, five days a week,” she maintains. But then she goes on to note that if you “do the math,” this means she could write a novel length manuscript in half a year.
“I have never written a novel length manuscript in half a year,” she admits. “In fact, two years would be fast for me."
So what happens? As author William Styron put it - “the fleas of life” get in the way. Shapiro agrees. “The dog has a vet appointment; the school play is at noon; it’s flu season, a snow day, who knew there were so many long weekends? The roof springs a leak; the neighbor’s house is under construction; a friend calls in a crisis. Life doesn’t pause to make room for our precious writing time. Life stops for nothing and we make accommodations."
There is an incredible amount of willpower necessary to write, especially when writing isn’t your “bread and butter.” Distractions abound - not only the alluring call of the internet, but homelier distractions as well. Like the bed sheets that should be changed, the towels that needed washing. There is always tea to be made, maybe it would help settle my queasy stomach - or if not that, some toast, dry but still something after all. While the tea brews, perhaps just a few more pages in that new novel I just started. Maybe I’ll finish the chapter before the tea cools, and then go back upstairs to write. By then it’s time to take the dogs outside, which means another pass with the shovel so their short legs don’t become encumbered with icy snowballs.
Ah yes, you know the drill, I can see you nodding your heads guiltily out there. After a while, it all becomes a little desperate, doesn’t it? Sort of like the way we feel when we open the window and see another snowstorm, another gray sky, hear the thunk and scrape of the snow blade as it passes down the street for the 10th time today.
Perseverance. I managed to put myself into the chair, open the page, start to write. Time slips by, you get lost in whatever world you’re creating. For the writer - and I suspect for the musician, the painter, the cook, the seamstress - it’s all part of the same battle. Put yourself where ideas and inspiration will find you.
And hope it doesn’t get sidetracked by distractions of its own on the way.