Getting back to work

Joe’s Post #143

Getting back from a writing retreat or a workshop, or even a conference, is a lot like coming back from a vacation with a bad case of the runs. It’s not like you don’t want to get on with life, but sh*t just keeps cropping up.

orange is the new blackBack at home, there’s all sorts of distractions, from Orange is the New Black to a regular life full of ball hockey practices, dishes and yelling at the dog for barking at the cat who’s hissing at the frogs, to bills and fights with Canada Revenue Services.

So while it’s easy to find time to write when you’re on a retreat, or at a workshop, it’s hard to keep that momentum going.

In the last week, I wrote 30 pages. Better than most weeks in 2015, that’s for sure, but far below what I should be doing. And that got me thinking.

How do you keep up the momentum?


For me, it routine is still my best hope, but I can write for 2 hours a day in the morning and produce 2 hours of crap. So that may not be everything.

keyFinding inspiration is the key. I mean, that’s what those other events are for, right?

Can you find it from other writers? Sure. So you need to be part of a group. A fun group that loves to write.

Can you find it from books on writing? Maybe, but it’s just as easy to get bogged down in editorial mode and that could mean you’ll be writing and rewriting and rewriting the same 30 pages over and over.

Can you find it from novels? Ah, that’s the ticket. At least for me. Nothing inspires like a good book.

Can you find it alone? Hmmm. Maybe, but inspiring myself is kind of like trying to cut my own hair. It usually ends in tears and a trip to the doctor to reattach an ear.

So how do you stay motivated?


Write till May then go away

Helga’s Post # 32 — Let’s face it, fellow writers, it’s over. The writing season, that is. Spring has sprung with brutal force. With each passing day it’s getting harder to spend hour after hour hacking out clever stuff on the keyboard, when the sun rises earlier and higher and days are getting forever longer.

I looked at the calendar just now and realized we are seven weeks away from solstice, when the days are getting SHORTER again. Forgive me for putting it this way. Maybe I should use the half-full rather than half-empty glass analogy: We can enjoy seven more weeks of days getting LONGER.

Either way, it’s getting harder to call forth that vital commitment that eventually leads to completing a manuscript that eventually leads to publishing. So, strictly from a writers’ perspective, I miss the winter months, when the only view I want is my computer screen showing my beautiful flawless writing. 😉 I can read over my creations time and again, without feeling guilty for missing out on yet another gorgeous sunny day.

Of course this applies to those of us who live in a part of the world where we do have cold and rainy days. Lots of them. For about half of the year. Vancouver ranks as one of the highest on the ‘rainy’ list, and that makes commitment to writing during that season easy as duck soup. For those who live in sunnier, drier climes, it may amuse you to know we even have a ‘Raincity Grill’ in our town. Oh yes, it rains a lot. Sometimes we don’t see a patch of blue for an entire month or two and we beat one rainfall record after another. We should be born with rubber boots.

But for now, that’s behind us. As I look outside my kitchen window on this first week of May, I struggle to stay put at my computer. Here are some, but not all, the things that distract me:

       Our apple tree bursting into bloom. Pink buds turning to opal white as they open

       Our bird feeder teeming with finches feasting on crushed sunflower seeds

       A fat squirrel trying to get into the bird feeder, then giving up and begging for peanuts at the door

       Early blooming rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and magnolias in a myriad of colours from white to dark purple and every shade of red and pink in between


Sisyrinchium and Lewisia about to bloom

       My alpine garden in full glory. Gentians, known for their magnificent shade of blue, Dodecatheons, Sisyrinchium, and half a dozen varieties of Saxifrage, the backbone of every alpine garden

Gentian alpinus

Gentiana alpina

       The biggest pride and joy of my alpine garden: My loyal Lewisia. I planted it 12 years ago in a scree, a stone container for growing alpines. It grows in sand and gravel and a bit of soil, and never gets fertilized. It stays out all winter during pouring rain and cold, without protection. It proliferates every year, and look how it rewards us.

How can I resist being out there, tending to this miracle of nature that delights me year after year at exactly the same time? (A huge challenge for a former member of the Alpine Garden Club of B.C.) It takes all my self-discipline to stay indoors and finish writing my novel. The one that I’m committed to submit in exactly 12 days from today to my critique group. The one that keeps me up at night wondering if I should change my antagonist, and worrying that I don’t have enough action scenes. But no one is to blame more than myself: I had all winter to get it done. I fell behind. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.



Luckily, for every problem in life there is a solution. Like Hegel’s famous triad: Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. At the risk of boring you, here is how this famous philosopher put it:

– The thesis is an intellectual proposition.

– The antithesis is simply the negation of the thesis, a reaction to the proposition.

– The synthesis solves the conflict between the thesis and antithesis by reconciling their common truths and forming a new thesis, starting the process over.

Bored already? Don’t blame you. Just wanted to sneak in a morsel of something clever. Maybe it’s a stretch, but it does illustrate the ‘solution’ part to writing on days when blue skies beckon and the sun lures us to the outdoors with magnetic pull. So I thought of how Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (who died 182 years ago) would have drafted a synthesis for contemporary writers:

1.     Rise at the sound of the first bird song

2.     Take your first cup of coffee somewhere outside in your PJ’s and inhale deeply

3.     Go inside and write like a dervish for a couple of hours

4.     Shut down your computer and enjoy the outdoors in whichever way suits you

5.     Have an early dinner (not too much wine)

6.     Have a short after-dinner walk

7.     Stay away from the TV

8.     Write like a dervish again until you really, really can’t concentrate any longer

9.     Sleep for eight hours without thinking about your plot

10.  Be proud, you earned it

11.  Repeat the next morning

12.  Repeat daily until the rainy season starts in the fall

13.  Get back to full-time writing. You should be able to start a new novel, pumped up as you are with all that sunshine vitamin D

 I am just about to get on to #4, so this post is a little short today. If I’m lucky, inspiration about who to choose for my evil protagonist will strike me.

Our beautiful Lewisia

Our beautiful Lewisia

I would love to hear how you deal with the challenge of writing when spring seduces you to shut down your computer.


Image credit: tumblr_kyb5eqmn5m1qawxl1o1