For years I woke up every day with at least one character and story line flowing freely through their brain. A day of not writing left me itchy mentally, angry at what had been lost because I could not make the time to sit in front of a computer and let the words spill across a white computer screen. It’s been over a year since I’ve plunged into my own stream of creativity.
Worse still, like the frog set gently into a pot of water set to boil, I have become accustomed to not writing. Not just accustomed either. I have learned to flourish. Without writing, there is so much more time to care for my husband. The house hasn’t been this clean in, well, decades. Each day begins with a half-hour of Tai Chi. I putter happily in my little garden, walk the foggy beaches of Humboldt County, and sit for hours beside Redwood Creek my mind filled with nothing but the dancing shadows of leafy tree limbs on the moving water. I joined a gym, re-embraced veganism, and walk with my husband each afternoon. Good Lord, I’ve lost twenty-five pounds, have more energy than I’ve had in years, and my doctor jokingly asked me teach a class on self-care.
Froggy is swimming just fine in the bubbling pond.
Recently, however, I blinked my eyes, glanced around and began to remember what life was like before I began floating in the lovely warm water. I marched into the Eureka Senior Center and volunteered to teach a class. My thinking was that if I acted like a writer, maybe, once again, I’d be a writer. I am a firm believer that everyone has a tale to tell and that we all have an obligation to share our hard-earned wisdom with the next generation. Most importantly, Velda Brotherton and Dusty Richards, both authors with damn fine careers, mentored me at the Northwest Arkansas Writers Workshop for years and years. Time to pay it forward.
Besides, one of my life lessons is that, when depression or just a disinterest in life sets in, the way to overcome it is to stop thinking about me, and to figure out a way to help others. Boy, oh, boy did I get more than I bargained for with this class! I’ve taught at libraries, conferences, and workshops. Teaching a class on memoir writing at the Eureka Senior Center was not my first teaching rodeo. I was prepared to encourage mediocre writers to sharpen their skills and to get their stories on paper, hoped there might be one or two people of exceptional talent. What I walked into that day five weeks ago was a classroom of twenty people all of whom have extraordinary writing skills, fascinating lives, and the rare ability to paint the world in their own unique fashion. Listening to these folks read their first assignment – writing their own obituaries – it was clear that my job was going to be to simply guide the enthusiasm of these individuals toward publication.
Oh, I taught point-of-view, sense-of-place, and internalization. We talked about building a character, developing a plot, and creating dialogue. But, the lessons were pushed along by the sheer talent in the room. We have people in the group who understand instinctively how to use deep internalization, how to build tension in an ordinary scene, and every single student possesses a unique view of the world. I believe all good teachers learn as much from their students as they teach. In this case, I frankly admit that I am not just learning, but feeding off the creative energy of this class.
Am I writing again?
Well, Bigfoot Blues, is being released this week, to be followed in six months by the never before published second book in that series, Bigfoot Mamas, with the third in the series due out six months later. The third book, whose working title is the very unoriginal, Bigfoot III, is calling to me. Over a year ago I abandoned the POV character, Samantha, in a very rough spot. She’s screaming at me to write her out of her predicament. I’m waking from dreams of Sam torn between her love for the gentle Bubba and the nearly irresistible pull of her first love, Hawk. Besides, women are disappearing in the forest, the only clue huge footprints in the dirt of the mountains of Humboldt County.
Yeah, time to quit floating and get to writing.