Saturday, 24 September 2016

The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine. —Mike Murdock

When we moved into our home, the property was overgrown. A previous well-intentioned owner had overplanted both in the back and the front. New to the natural foliage of British Columbia and unschooled in handling many of the species, we trimmed timidly last fall. Not so this year. We spent the week out front, digging up and moving plants and hacking and slaughtering anything over four feet tall. It looks haggard and worn, but we know the climate will support new growth and that spring will bring fresh beauty.
There is something satisfying about taking control of the yard. We did it systematically, going out each afternoon with our self-assigned tasks. In the mornings, I took much the same approach to my writing. While I'd like to say the words flowed, the truth is they trickled. At least I did not face a full dam. A small leak is better than that. Without a doubt, sitting each day and actually putting words on paper is slowly rebuilding the habit, strengthening the writing muscle. I am once again lying at night, plotting and planning and that too is a terrific turning point.

Synergy is an interesting phenomena. As I begin to take control of these two aspects of my world, I am also finding the driving desire to take care of my body. The pleasure of many months of hosting and socializing has taken its toll. I had fallen into a lazy exercise routine and indulged in eating and drinking far more than my body can handle. So, since I can't just hack away at unwanted body fat or transplant some strength into atrophied limbs, I threw myself into some serious exercising and carefully monitored my intake. And, it feels good. Really good.

I'm not sure whether or not I am a control freak, but I do know this sense of micro-domination increases my productivity and brings satisfaction. I am optimistic that I have crossed a mental threshold and will continue to throw myself regularly into each of these endeavours. While I firmly believe that shaking up my world is necessary from time to time, that celebration is integral to happiness and that enjoying unexpected moments is essential to living a rounded healthy life, I have discovered that the comfort that routine brings is also important to me.
Look out backyard, I'm coming for you!

Saturday, 17 September 2016

You can’t think yourself out of a writing block; you have to write yourself out of a thinking block. ― John Rogers

I thought if I just showed up, the writing would fall back into place. So, I have shown up each day, sat in front of my computer, puttered with a few words and then drifted off to Twitter and blogs and anything else that would take me as far away from the void as possible. For, I am looking into a black hole rather than a maelstrom of words. I've got nothing. Nada. Zero.

At first, I thought it was the quiet that has settled over Cutting to the Chase. It is done. It is out in the world. And, while I know the process takes time, it is difficult not to feel defeated by the silence. I am grateful that agents have asked for my full manuscript but the waiting is not easy. I read about how hard it is, over and over on writers' blogs. Consistently, they say to move on. Write something else to distract you. Advice I took to heart. But what do you do when no words flow? You sit and listen to the stillness and worry that you are not good enough. That you were never good enough. That you are entirely delusional to even think you could be a writer.
I decided I suffered from some form of mental paralysis, that fear was making my writing muscles rigid. The self-diagnosis did not help. I floundered even more. Mags' story remained elusive. It shifted and morphed in my mind but didn't drift to the page. Perhaps a change of pace was in order? I pulled up the sequel to Raven's Path. And stared at it. I reviewed my plot notes for Sophia's story, my second Regency. Crickets. Like a madwoman, I opened every file that contained story premises…and remained entirely uninspired.

I have come to the conclusion that it is not enough to just show up. That's like going to the gym and watching the Zumba class or staring at the equipment. Like the reluctant exerciser (and trust me, I know her well), I need to push myself into activity, even if it's just going through the motions. I need to put words to paper every day despite the fact that they might be absolute crap. Logically, I know that eventually my atrophied writing muscles will strengthen and I will once again be able to string together a coherent story.

It is far easier to keep a habit by writing a little bit every day than it is to rebuild the habit. I must remember that the next time life lures me with its promise of good times and good friends. There is no need to pass up on any of it, but nor is it necessary to ditch my writing so completely. I think even fifteen minutes a day would have held its valuable place in my life.

So, I will enjoy this weekend and get back on the writing treadmill on Monday. It won't be easy, and it's going to be uncomfortable and probably frustrating. But it's as necessary as my daily exercise regime because it's my mental sanity. My creative anchor. It's what I do. I write…I hope.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Hornby Island—the jewel of the Gulf

For those who drop by regularly, you might have gathered that I am enamoured of my new home. The vistas, the weather, the pace, our friends old and new—I am captivated, invigorated and inspired. This province is an artist's dream. There is a niche for every performer, visual artist or writer. And, if you want to experience art, to learn more about any of those mediums, or to simply surround yourself with talent, you do not have to look very far.
In August, we had the pleasure of joining some friends at their summer home on Hornby Island. Nestled in the Salish Sea, it is a funky eclectic retreat, two ferry rides from Vancouver Island. Its rustic ambience is entirely misleading. As you drive along the only road from the ferry, it lulls you into believing there is little there except nature's beauty. But, it is dichotomous. Definitely a place to unplug and unwind if that is your desire, but it's also teeming with a vibrant arts community that will keep you hopping if you so choose. We enjoyed a little bit of both.

The ten-day Hornby Festival included a one day Writer's Festival. Featuring Canadian writers of all ilk, it was right up my alley. The weather was iffy that day so they promptly moved it to the community hall. It was a beehive of activity, buzzing with anticipation. And, it did not disappoint. Such joy to meet and to listen to new-to-me authors! Claudia Casper's reading about a cougar attack, from her novel The Mercy Journals, was appropriately cringe-worthy. I laughed and cried as Michael Christie talked about his inspiration for If I Fall, If I Die. A renowned skateboarder turned author, he is a writer to watch. 

The day was capped off with a keynote address by Lawrence Hill. Seriously, does it get any sweeter? His soft cadence lulled, made it feel comfortable and intimate, while his sincere candid sharing about his life, his sister's death and his take on the world in general thumped in my heart and mind. He is clearly a man who cares deeply about what he says both in his writing and in person. A signed copy of The Illegal now sits at the top of my TBR pile.

There were many authors that we didn't catch because we wanted to tour this oh-so-small island (~30 km²). So, in true Keev and Rose fashion, we hit our version of tourist highlights. We visited the charming Carbrea Winery, sipped Pinot Gris and enjoyed fresh peaches. We dropped in at Island Spirits Distillery, where the owner is quite the character. Samplings of gin and vodka were very interesting—black jelly bean…mmm. As an added bonus, we ran into Michael Christie at the distillery. He is so disarming and genuine, I almost cried again. And, to top off the tour, we had cocktails at the beautiful Breeze Restaurant overlooking the ocean.
Yes, the arts are supported, nurtured and celebrated. So, it seems, is the making of alcohol. No wonder I'm so darn happy here!

Keev with Lawrence Hill

Saturday, 3 September 2016

There is comfort in routine. —John Steinbeck

I'm back! Of course, I don't expect that to generate as much excitement for you folks as it does for me. It's been a fabulous few months, but there is nothing like settling back into routine. My brain needs it and, without a doubt, my body needs it!

But, what a summer!

We enjoyed visits with so many special people.
We did lots of gardening and continue to enjoy the fruits of our labour.

We ate an awful lot of food.
And enjoyed far too many bevvies.

Even the girls had a blast.

Now it's time to buckle down and get back to this.

I hope everyone had a terrific summer. Let's hold hands and jump into fall together!