As well, I've committed myself to a personal writing project, something I began a half year into retirement, thinking I'd finally found time for it. Then I abandoned it last February as we prepared to put our house on the market, left it locked away in a file in the CPU of my desktop computer. Pater spent a few hours two weeks ago getting that CPU set up with keyboard and monitor (there were a few recovery issues!), and with some encouragement from Julia Cameron (in The Artist's Way), I'm managing to ignore all the inner voices that tell me why it's not worth the time. Fifteen minutes here, half an hour there, I've been adding paragraphs some days, barely sentences others, and then deleting whole pages on discouraging others. It's at a very early draft stage, but I'm pleased to find that I'm incrementally, if slowly, adding words onto the page/screen. . .
In fact, I took the photos above on Friday morning en route to a local Bakery/Café, laptop in my backpack, with the intention of writing there for an hour or so. I've always been very skeptical of this approach, despite the countless examples of writers who've had great success scribbling important works this way. Surely, if I can't buckle down and get the words down at home, where I can arrange my writing station to my satisfaction, how will I be more likely to do it in an environment with more distractions, where I have so much less control.
But in my "morning pages," I'd decided that I might formalise my commitment to this writing project by pencilling in one or two weekly "away" appointments for it. Further, I thought I'd try to make those writing dates enticing by choosing appealing locations -- and if the spots were a kilometre or so from home, I'd have just enough walking time for an effective mental transition. I'm happy to report that one cranberry scone and two decaf Americanos later, after an hour and a half at a small wooden table in a window bay, I had added over a thousand words. First-draft words. Words which will have to be replaced or deleted or massaged or moved, yes, but a big satisfying swack of words.
Words which arrived despite -- or because of? -- the occupants of the five other small tables in the fairly cosy space changing regularly. A family group (A young-ish Grandma and Grandpa with their two beautiful adult daughters and their equally beautiful and not-too-boisterous grandchildren) pulled three tables together, but only lasted about ten minutes (after the ten of getting their coffees, their scones, their cinnamon buns, their teas, their juices, taking the coats off and slinging them onto chairbacks, sitting this child next to her favourite cousin) before they had to leave -- presumably for a park which might be more amenable to the children's activity levels.
Yes, I noticed all this activity, but I found it surprisingly soothing. I'd look up at a beautifully open little face, surrounded by an aura of golden curls, and then catch the eye of the little one's grandmother, and smile, but then lower my eyes back to my screen. I suspect the complete lack of obligation to anyone at the table allowed me to refresh my mental screen at the most superficial level without disrupting my concentration. . . .
A late-thirties professional woman had her work spread across a table in the corner when I arrived, but must have left while I was engaged in determining the logical sequence of several paragraphs. I might have been considering the connotations of a particular word when I didn't notice another woman, this one in her fifties, slide a four-year-old grandson into a chair across the table, but there they were, when I looked up a bit later. And so on, through the ninety minutes, musical chairs being played all around me, and occasionally the whole place would be nearly empty and the barista would take a break to clear tables and sweep the floor.
A thousand words later, as I said, I "saved" the file, shut down my laptop, and declared the experiment a success. I've "booked" another "appointment" for myself this week. No idea what shape my pages will take eventually (okay, that's a lie, arising out of fear -- I might have an idea or two, but I'm afraid to set myself up for failure or ridicule or disappointment by exposing those ideas right now. Working on that). But I'm encouraged enough that I'm going to keep adding pages for now and see what shape they might suggest.
As I do this, however, I'm also trying to figure out how the blog will fit in. On Friday, those thousand words followed the seven hundred or so of my "morning pages." As you might imagine, I was unable to muster words for a blogpost after that much writing. Even just those three free-writing, start-the-day pages, at anywhere from 500-750 words, while valuable for generating ideas and for helping me discern my needs and desires, undeniably pull time and writing energy that would normally find its way to this screen.
I'd like to find a way to balance both writing goals, but I'm not sure how that will look eventually, and quite honestly, I intend to be a bit selfish in the short term. Much as I love this blogging community, I want to give my writing self a fair shot at exploring other possibilities. I hope you'll keep visiting as I sort this all out -- after all, you've been part of my life for almost ten years now!