Sometimes It’s Okay Not to Write

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We went to the tiny seaside fishing village with good intentions, not to fish, but to simply relax, enjoy some time away from daily life. It was our 46th wedding anniversary and in recent years we’ve enjoyed taking such a break on this occasion.

The view above was taken from the beach house balcony early on our first morning after arrival. Believe it or not, rather than inspire me, this view restricted my writing. I wanted to write, believe me. My intention had been to write about 1000 words while there. I thought the surroundings would be perfect.

It seems they were too perfect and I needed relaxation more than I needed writing. I spent most of the four days enjoying the view. Sure, I achieved some journal writing, but nothing more serious than that. In fact at the end of our first full day there I wrote:

My brain is like a hyperactive child after an overload of sugar. It is flitting all over the place, nothing productive. Maybe I need this quietness to enable my creative mind to have a rest, empty, then leave room for new ideas.

I eventually accepted that it was okay not to write. My brain fell into the peaceful rhythm of the sea and I chose to not disturb that rhythm as it became absorbed into my being.

Now I am home again, refreshed, and ready to start writing again.

Sometimes it’s okay not to write.

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Imagining the Past at the Manawatu Estuary

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On a recent trip to our nearest beach we spent time enjoying the estuary at the river mouth, where my local river eventually flows into the ocean. These days the estuary, not shown here in the photo, is a protected heritage area, where many of New Zealand’s native water birds can be found at various times of the year.

It wasn’t the birds that captured my attention on this trip though, but the river and how it served in the opening up of my region in the 1870s when New Zealand was being settled. The river has changed its course over the years since then and definitely doesn’t seem as wide nor deep as it once must have been.

In the beginning, before the region was cleared of forest and before roads were established the river was the major means of travelling inland to where I live. Settlers arriving to the newly established town had to travel up river in large sailing boats for some distance to a nearby thriving port town, then onward in smaller river transport.

I tried imaging the big sailing ships carrying arrivals, people who had been on board for months, eager to reach their new homeland. The river shown here at low tide just didn’t seem to be capable of being navigated by a large sailing ship. However, I enjoyed imaging the presence of so many ships arriving at was back then a thriving port, that I was on board one of them arriving at a strange destination.

This river mouth of the Manawatu River played an important role in the development of my region.

Saturday Morning Journal Writing

It’s Saturday morning again and the first day of winter here in New Zealand. Mind you, winter didn’t wait this year, but slammed us a week early. Our summer was long and hot and I have a funny feeling winter is going to long and cold.

I awoke early, probably because I told myself I’d sleep in this morning. Things never work out as I plan at the weekend. When I realised I wasn’t going to get back to sleep I started reading, re-reading actually as I chose to read Natalie Goldberg’s ‘Writing Down the Bones’, from the beginning.

As always happen, whenever I pick up this book, I get as far as when Natalie tells her readers:

“Sit down right now. Give me this moment. Write whatever’s running through you. You might start with “this moment” and end up writing about the gardenia you wore at your wedding seven years ago. That’s fine. Don’t try to control it. Stay present with whatever comes up, and keep your hand moving. “ Goldberg, Natalie (2010-08-31). Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

And, so I did. I sat down and started writing. Here, in more or less unabridged form, part of the thoughts that flowed through my pencil onto the page of my journal.

There’s so much writing running through my head, chaotic, disorganised, like the wild flow of a river in flood. I have no idea how to tame the wild natural force of a river. Like the river my writing needs to rush onward toward its destination – not the sea, but a recognisable chunk to be added to my work in progress.

Yesterday I completed the piece on the pine grove I’ve been working on. It’s not quite as long as I  hoped for, but I’m pleased with the finished product. I felt immense satisfaction from feeling I’d grown a little as a writer.

Sometimes giving yourself permission to simply write thoughts in a journal leads to other pieces of writing. I had no idea where I was going with this. However, the writing picked up on threads I’ve been thinking about lately, writing about my local river in different contexts, as preparation for a small piece that will eventually sort itself from the chaos and appear in my work in progress.

Natalie Goldberg tells us to keep practicing writing and that is what I do. Every now and then something of greater importance emerges. But, right now I’m still gathering facts and stories and mapping out the direction my new work will take.

How about you? Do you follow Natalie’s advice and practise writing every day, warming up by just writing before you get on with the serious stuff? Do you find the thoughts written randomly written in your journal take you places you hadn’t previously thought of going?

Dead Ideas Sent to the Morgue

Sometimes things are meant to be, or not meant to be as is the case for me right now. I went to bed early tonight, tired after an early start to a busy day.  My brain, however, had other plans. Elusive Ideas swirling above me all afternoon in a game of tag now decided to come close enough to be caught. I turned on the light, grabbed my pencil – my preferred writing tool – and the notebook I keep beside the bed for such moments.Sleep wouldn’t come until those ideas were captured.

Ping! Without warning the room plunged into darkness. Why hadn’t I listened when I told myself to buy a couple of new spare light bulbs today? I refused to be defeated and grabbed my laptop sitting beside the bed for such middle of the night emergencies.

For some reason, when the light went out it did so in more ways than one. The ideas laughed at how daring they’d been to tempt me into full wakefulness and ran away to hide, leaving me sitting staring at a blank computer screen.

I could do a little research, perhaps find out something about the morgue that sat on the site before the old swimming pool was built in 1917. Have you ever tried to find out about morgues long since closed? The lights were definitely out on that idea. Google shook its head and refused to part with any information about morgues in my part of the world. Maybe I need to establish one for dead ideas.

So, here I sit, wide awake, tapping away at the keyboard lit only by the light of the screen. I may as well make use of my time. Next I’ll check out a few recent blog posts before trying to drift off to sleep again. Light bulbs will definitely be on my shopping list tomorrow.

A Glass of New Zealand Wine, Time Zones and Writing Productivity

I’m sitting here on a warm autumn Saturday evening in New Zealand, sipping a glass of local red wine, thinking about time zones and how they affect bloggers in the southern hemisphere. For those of you writing blogs in northern hemisphere, time zones may not seem much of an issue. For those of us blogging here down under, we are at a serious disadvantage.

You see, while the rest of the world sleeps we’re wide awake, enjoying our day, writing and going about whatever daily chores we choose. Work posted at this time is far from productive. The Word Press Stats page tells me the northern time is currently 4:50 am, while here I am enjoying Saturday evening around 5:40 pm.

You may not think this difference is a problem, but it does affect the number of views received on a page. When I tweet my efforts on Twitter during my waking hours, views are limited to those in this part of the world, effectively cutting out more than half the world’s population. Consequently I’ve taken to sneaking in the occasional tweet when I wake around 2 a.m. This makes a noticeable difference in attracting new readers to my pages here and elsewhere, but plays havoc with my sleep patterns. Pages published on Word Press during my day are way down the list of newly submitted work by the time most readers wake to the world.

My most productive writing happens in the morning, when my brain cells are fresh and ideas hover in the air like blooms waiting to be picked. In the evening  my creativity has long since closed doors for the day and signed off duty.

However, today is Saturday, a warm autumn Saturday evening here in New Zealand. I’ve finished my usual weekend domestic chores and mowed the lawn as well. I’ve sat reading a book and fallen asleep while doing so. Life has been uncomplicated. I poured a glass of wine as my reward for surviving another day and decided to see which blogs I follow had new postings. Nothing! Everyone is still asleep it seems.

The only solution I can think of is to start writing. After this initial free writing here to warm up my brain, I know many more words will follow.  The night is young.

I ask all you northern hemisphere bloggers to be aware of your southern blogging colleagues and watch out for posts that are submitted at what may seem strange hours for you.