On Writing

Adventure Indoors and Out

Sometimes inspiration comes not from doing, but being.

“Imagine a forest. Can you see it?”

“Yes, oh yes. Trees as far as the eye can see. Trunks so thick they can’t be hugged. Fruits so splendid, you’d never long to taste another. A forest of unmatched bounty. A forest for all.”

“That is a forest, yes, but I dream of dry valleys and steep cliffs, of brush that prickles to the touch, of life that scurries instead of swings.”

“But the fruit of this forest—”

“The fruit of this forest is not plucked from the vine. It is not peeled and pitted. It is found always around the next bend, over the next incline, and beneath every unturned stone. It is a feast for the eyes, for the fibers of woebegone muscles. It silences the voice within that would have you collapse with every pace.”

“I do not know this fruit.”

“But you do, yes, you do. It is the fruit of all earned journeys—the spoils of a triumphant spirit.”

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I spent much of February drying out in the Sonoran Desert, the Tonto National Forest, and the Superstition Wilderness Area. I desperately needed the time away from the cold, and though daytime temps started in the 30s, most days they reached the 60s or 70s, which provided enough of a reprieve to have me feeling refreshed by the time we boarded our return flight home.

Then, this greeted us as our plane descended in Madison.

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The snow is to be expected this time of year (it is February, after all), but I won’t pretend I wasn’t a bit disheartened.

Once we deplaned, however, I found this snow, too, refreshing. It was a reminder of the often fleeting nature of the quiet moments, of those pauses for rest, of the opportunities for contemplation we often need but rarely have the chance to embrace.

Aside from helping me recognize the time away was even more precious than I thought, I realized that very sentiment—that of the fleeting nature of that which we often need most—lies at the heart of my current manuscript and, in fact, much of what I write.

In my current manuscript, a novel that takes place on a cranberry farm in northern Wisconsin, my main character only has the present. Everything he longs to recapture is locked away in an inaccessible past, and his future will remain uncertain, he feels, until he can determine what he’s left behind.

The funny thing about this character’s failure to embrace the present? I didn’t realize any of it was in the manuscript until I left it untouched during the time I was away.

This is a lesson I’ve had to learn time and time again, and every time I encounter it, it becomes more and more true. Sometimes the best thing we can do for a project, for a relationship, for even the most mundane of tasks is to leave it be for a time.

That said, it isn’t practical to scamper off to the desert every time we need a break (at least not if you’re in Wisconsin like I am). The good news, though, is that time and distance can, for these purposes, be relative. We can pick and choose the when, how, and how far of the space we need for ourselves, and accepting that control (and acting upon it!) can make all the difference between stumbling into inspiration and burning oneself out.

So give yourself space. Give yourself time. Give yourself power over your challenges by making sure they know you control them and not the other way around.

Speaking of challenges…

I’m taking on a new one myself.

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I’ve been producing audio for years as part of my Writescast Network podcasts, but I’ve recently started dabbling—okay, more than dabbling—with video as well.

If you’re unfamiliar, the above photo depicts a green screen, the kind of thing your weather forecaster stands in front of when reading their report on the nightly news.

With some video magic, you can use a green screen to make it seem as though you’re someplace you’re not, or, say, put up a few examples behind you as part of a teaching module.

See where this is going?

That’s right: in the coming months, I’ll be debuting a series of online courses based on material I teach at writing conferences (and some material I’ll be teaching only through these online portals!).

You’ll receive more updates as we get closer to the launch date for these courses, but, until then, you can check out some of this material during my forthcoming visits to these conferences.

That’s all for my February updates. We’ll see you again in March, if not sooner!


The above is an abbreviated version of material that first appeared in my author newsletter. If you’d like to receive these updates in your inbox each month, you can subscribe here.

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