After the quite intense return to my paid day-job, while attempting to also work at my writing craft, I settle into a slightly calmer week-day routine. On the Labour Day weekend, I reward my mind and body with a venture out to the top of the world. On a sunny Saturday morning, after a quick visit to the downtown farmers market, my friend, her doggie and I hike up the local Lynn Peak (elevation gain 750m) for a picnic lunch and spectacular view of Vancouver. Being seriously out of hiking practice, and having popped a muscle relaxant to help me breathe, I am amazed at the relatively painless 2-hour hike up—the hike down of the same duration tells of the steepness and the ruggedness of the trail. We are all pooped in the evening, and when our bodies snap out of the shock we have imposed on them, they scream at us in protest for a couple of days. The change in perspective is so worth it! That weekend I make another Thai-themed Special Dish for the Week: Thai Ginger Tofu with Oyster Mushrooms and Swiss Chard.
The following week, I make plans to write on a few evenings. These plans get promptly derailed by my choosing to do an above-average job at my paid day-job, staying late to do so—and by the knowledge that I have dedicated the following weekend entirely to working on my book. Besides, I am a little stuck in my story, which is demanding of me some deep soul-searching and self-analysis—not exactly conducive to tackling when most of the brain-power for the day has been used up on figuring out how to help keep Canadians safer from natural disasters (which is what I do in my paid day-job at NRCan). So, I turn to my thriving herb garden, instead, for some comfort and sustenance. My first home-grown greens of arugula, basil and cilantro accompany my shrimp-asparagus-spinach quiche creation.
After a bi-weekly Skype check-in with my Developmental Editor to brainstorm how I might approach the impending weekend Writing Retreat, I prepare in advance my France-inspired Special Dish for the Week for the following week’s lunches: Ratatouille Provençale, as well as food to take to the retreat—and I don’t manage to go either dancing or to bed early. It has been a while for these latter two activities. Life tends to be a little full when you’re trying to live it and write about it.
The 2-day Writing Retreat, organized as part of the Just Write Vancouver Meetup group, is within a 10-minute bike ride over the bridge that joyously has a separated bike lane. As a warm-up to the Writing Retreat, I participate in a Yoga and Writing Workshop—both activities employing the principles of free-flow: in yoga, movement and breath flow freely; in writing, thoughts that are often self-critical flow freely onto paper or the keyboard (akin to the Daily Morning Pages). This Workshop interweaves both elements within its 2-hours.
Throughout the Retreat, I try hard to resolve the block I am stuck on in my story, but am careful not to push too hard, as I already learned that lesson. The images I conjure up for myself are that of me, facing a log jam of thoughts, and spinning a spider web of analysis to try to get myself to move forward in my story. I do a lot of free-writing during the weekend-long Writing Retreat, and resolve to try a different, more physical approach to this predicament—perhaps I need to print out a few dozen pages and go at them with coloured crayons, stickies, and scissors, and see what happens. Trying this approach would really stretch me in a new direction, but after being in this state of stuckedness for over a month, I just may need to get down on my knees and get my hands to help my brain find a way out.
The Writing Retreat proves productive in several other ways too. Having set aside nearly 24 hours to just work on my book, I give myself permission to reorganize some spreadsheet lists, catch up on some reading of a helpful self-publishing blog, and add to my potential storyline ideas list. Much of the weekend I spend feeling nearly defeated by the task of trying to tell my own story in a cohesive, written form, and am gratefully heartened by the feedback I receive from several retreat co-participants. My brief descriptions of “what my book is about” draw my fellow writers in, as they exclaim “I really want to read your book!” Externally validated, my wilting internal motivation is revived. Though it cannot take forever, the memoir process will not be rushed…and I feel more ok with that as I emerge from the Writing Retreat.
I am also finding that writing need not be the solitary occupation that it is sometimes presented as. With about 10-20 of us in the large open space at any given point during the Retreat, though we do not speak with each other while we write, it feels that we are connecting on some level; the energy is almost palpable. Likewise, collaboration between writers can occur in the same room, or across countries and continents. In the past weeks, I have the good fortune to mentor from Vancouver my writer-friend in Ontario on setting up a website similar to mine, which she plans to use to recount her tales from her upcoming EuroTour. Earlier, when putting together my website during my Euro-Canadian Book Writing Tour 2013, I was learning the ropes from another Ontarian writer-friend who had been building her website ahead of me for sharing her literary projects. My good fortune in this writing collaborative of course also includes my US-based Developmental Editor and writer colleague—to name but a few global writer connections I have amassed thus far. Once I open up these website updates of my writing process more publically to the cyber-world, I hope to hyper-link with them.
Naturally, I round out my weeks with more delicious, nutritious—and otherwise luscious—dishes. I have several super salads with the greens from my herb garden, observing in amazement the abundance of such a small growing area.