Ever since my last major writing project wrapped up a few months ago, I’ve been in limbo, caught in the doldrums and aimlessly adrift. It’s not uncommon for me to feel rudderless after investing time and energy on a book. All those hours spent at a keyboard, hunting, pecking, in search of the right words – suddenly the job’s over and now there is…nothing. Just a huge yawning void where there used to be…something. For me, it’s a restless and uneasy transition, stepping into that nothing period while waiting for the next great idea and hoping that one will eventually come along.
I haven’t exactly been idle, though. In those few months, I’ve written and self-published a single copy picture book for my granddaughter (thank you Blurb.com – it was my first attempt at this thing called self-publishing…I thought it went fairly well)
- Updated my website (hmmm…always takes more time than I budget)
- Prepared a book trailer for the new book (read somewhere this was a good idea…again, more time invested than I estimated….still unfinished….someday…maybe)
- Revised and updated a previously published book (the rights have reverted to me and somehow it seemed the timely thing to do….eBook possibilities perhaps)
- Viewed an entire series of YouTube videos about publishing for Kindle (check the previous item – yes, the eBook one)
- Corresponded with, and then interviewed the curator of New York’s India House Foundation (caught a glimmer of a spellbinding story online…pumped the gracious curator for information…haven’t written anything yet….again, someday…maybe)
- Researched and drafted a true story about a deadly snake encounter (intriguing and offbeat…not sure what I’ll be doing with it, though)
- Wrote several blogs for Vast Imaginations (you can check, if you like)
So, yes, I suppose I’ve been busy ‘writing’, but in a directionless, rudderless way and some of that busy-ness has more to do with ‘writing business’ than actually creating something new.
There’s another thing that’s been eating away at my time. I’ve been on the road for the past 6 weeks, jaunting across the southern United States to places far warmer than ice-locked Winnipeg. While I’ve kept up my writing routine (coffee houses-early morning), I’ve also embarked on a dozen hikes with my wife, driven wasted miles to see a cliff etched with faint petroglyphs and wiled away hours in bookstores around the country
Although you might not call my en-route activities ‘writing’, for me they are. And they’re as important to the process of stepping into the next book as any of the other things I’ve listed. On previous travels, I’ve tapped into some great leads. A visit to Hot Springs, South Dakota unearthed a story about ancient mammoths caught in a sinkhole that I added to Mysteries of Time. Becoming lost on a mountain hike in Colorado inspired Survivors: True Death-Defying Escapes. Another hike in the Superstition Mountains region of Arizona hike brought me the story of the Lost Dutchman’s quest for gold. And then there was the time when I was in Calgary and dropped by for the monthly meeting of the Calgary Metal Detecting Club – truly an experience – an eclectic group of eager treasure hunters displaying their latest and greatest finds. The information I gathered then became an instrumental part of Lost Treasures: True Stories of Discovery.
My point is this. That next great idea probably won’t appear without some nourishment. A lot of those things we writers do – things that don’t seem to be actual ‘writing’ – things like browsing book stores, cornering museum curators for information, becoming proficient at a new computer skill, or hiking a mountain trail – are essential to the process. We’re clearing the decks, tilling the soil, priming the pump, recharging our batteries (or whatever metaphor you’d like to use). When that great idea appears, we’ll be ready, pens poised and computers humming.