A Time to Weed

One of my favorite things to do is garden.  I have several small gardens around my yard and each Spring I cannot wait to get outside and nurture the plants.  I start with cleaning off the dead at the end of April and plant annuals and new perennials at the beginning of May. Then, I try to keep the weeds at bay.  Unfortunately, I was not able to work in my gardens until today.  As I pulled the weeds in an effort to find my lovely perennials I realized how much they represented my life. 

Have you ever piled your plate so high that only a little bit of everything gets done and some things go to the wayside? With three children and their activities, a wonderful husband, full-time job outside the home, church committees, writing, extended family and friends, social events and the musicals, I’ve allowed myself to become so busy that I didn’t know if I am coming or going.   In all of this, I’ve gotten away from reading: novels, devotionals and the Bible, with the exception of planning my Sunday School lesson and worshiping in church. 

My life needs to be weeded as much as my garden.  I need to limit the amount of time I spend on the unimportant and more on the important – prayer and family.  Once the weeds are gone, my focus will return, as it did today when I realized what I had been missing.  It may sound crazy, but this is often a time when I renew my spirit.  This is when my mind doesn’t have to focus on what I am doing, but opens and I ask God the important question – what do you want me to do for You?  Perhaps this is why everything has seemed overwhelming of late.  I’ve been so busy doing that I forgot to be led.

Does this just happen to me, or have you had occasions where your life is so full of weeds you lose focus of what is most important?

Worthless

              Lately I have spent more time at the theater than I have spent writing.  It happens this way sometimes.  I love both the solitary life of writing, and the energy of creativity and talent in a theater.  My last post referenced Little Women, Jo’s manuscript and travel.  I had just finished costuming Little Women when I wrote that blog. 

                I recently finished costuming Man of La Mancha.  I believe most people are familiar with the story of Don Quixote and if you are not, read the book or see the play/musical. It is a wonderful story.  But, as I was sat and watched the beginning, which I watched each night, certain points of the dialogue really struck me.  It happens right after Cervantes is thrown into the dungeon to await the inquisition and the Governor finds a manuscript in his trunk of costumes and props.  This is Cervantes’ work, his writing, and he does not want it lost or destroyed.  The “Governor” asks him if it is valuable.  Cervantes’ response is “only to me”.  The Governor offers to ransom it but Cervantes has no money. Further, the Governor states that it is paper. Cervantes replies “manuscript”.  The governor counters, “Still worthless.”

                Worthless?  No manuscript is ever worthless.  Anyone who has written a novel, short story, poem, song, etc knows that their work is not worthless.  At least not to them.  The same goes for any artist.  Perhaps that is why rejection is so hard.  I know of no author who was not rejected before an agent or editor saw it as valuable and arranged for publication.  But, the road to publication can be a long one and I think at one point or another a writer simply feels worthless.  For some, it is the first rejection and others, the twenty-fifth.  We also mustn’t forget contests.  Often, despite the helpful comments, the low score is what stays with you.  With so much of what a writer could persceive as negative, thoughts begin to creep into your mind that you had been wasting your time when others see the work you slaved over, lost sleep over and polished to almost perfection as not worthy of publication, a decent score, or in other words, worthless

                If or whenever you get that feeling, kick yourself in the behind.  Any creative activity for which you have a passion for is NEVER worthless. It does not matter if you are the only one who is going to read the story, see the painting or hear the music.  If it came from you, from your heart, mind and soul, it will never be worthless.

Backups and Travel

My daughter recently played Marmee in Little Women in her high school musical. I am sure you all know the story, Jo is the writer, Meg the romantic, Amy wants the better things in life and Beth is simply content and dies far too young.  All of the characters are wonderful in this well-known story, but being an author myself, I always understood where Jo was coming from.  I even felt her pain when Amy burned her manuscript.  There were no backup or flash drives, let alone computers, during the Civil War and once the copy is gone, it is gone forever.  Even though it was a fictional story, my stomach still clenched each time I witnessed the younger sister toss the papers into the imaginary flames.  Perhaps it brings back bad memories of when my hard-drive failed.  I swore I had each chapter and sections copied to a floppy disc (did I just date how long I’ve been writing?).  After I restored my hard drive, I went to load the book back onto the computer.  Five chapters, from the middle of the book, were gone. I still remember they were chapters 19 – 24.  I was sick, sick, sick. I remembered what happened in these chapters, but the words I had written were gone forever.

At one point in the story, Aunt March mentions to Jo that she considered taking her to Europe.  Jo believes this is something she needs to do and will do anything, even if it means becoming a poised lady, to go to Europe.  Her theory is that a writer needs to travel to become better.  Rarely do we get to travel to the places we write about, unless you write contemporary stories that take place in your home town.  My novels are historical with settings mainly in England.  Pure is the Heart touches on Paris because it occurs during the French Revolution. However, my heroine, Elise, has escaped France in order to keep her head attached to her neck.  A lot of the inspiration for this novel, and the places I mention, came from my first visit to France four years ago.  Though we are over a century removed from the French Revolution, many of the most amazing places can still be visited and that is exactly what I plan to do again. 

Over spring break I had the great opportunity to once again go to France.  This time, I thought I knew the story I wanted to write.  It was to be a sequel to Pure is the Heart and take place during one of their most turbulent times in history.  I had the advantage of knowing what I needed to find out and which pictures I need to take and what books I may need to purchase.  I could hardly wait to start this adventure and once again absorb the history of Paris, Versailles, Chartres, the cathedrals and the many chateaus in the region.  Once I was there it all changed. Oh, I still plan on writing the sequel, but an entire new set of stories began to form in my mind with each visit to a historical place.  The what ifs did not stop.  It just goes to show that a story in my head doesn’t always turn out the same way on paper, and sometimes our writing takes an entirely new direction due to our life experiences.

With Jo, she wrote “blood and guts” stories.  After Beth died, she could not write a thing.  Her inspiration and desire died along with her sister.  Not until listening to the wise words of her mother, and her own inner reflection, did she pick up her quill and paper once again. This time, however, she wrote a story of four young women, Meg the romantic, Amy with the pout, and sweet, sweet Beth. . .

What about you? Have you ever lost part of all of a manuscript for good? Do you desire to travel anywhere to research your stories and absorb the locations and history?  Or, have you already had the opportunity to travel to some interesting place to enhance your story?  And, have you ever started writing one thing and later switch genre’s because of alterations in your life?