In order to write well, and often, I need to have experiences that will feed my imagination. There's certainly adventure found doing the mundane-who knows when your dishwasher might revolt and flood your house with torrents of water, which would certainly set in motion an unexpected adventure-but I've found that being in nature brings many of my best ideas forward. It's a fueling stop for my sometimes blah imagination. Because I still have a little one in tow, I've searched for ways that he and I can both benefit from our outings; he in play and fun and movement and exploring creation, and me, doing the same, with a very cute companion!
Every Wednesday, whether there's wind or scorching sun, or fog or soupy mud-puddly rain we dress accordingly and head to the beach. It's the wildest place we have within a short drive. There, we sometimes dig, or picnic, or walk in the tide pools. The baby always throws rocks and sometimes I join him to see how many skips I can get out of a flat rock across a retreating wave. Sometimes we bring homemade lemonade. Sometimes we collect driftwood. I always wear a hat, and try to look around and see the colors, and smell the salt, and feel the raw elements on my skin.
What I love about going to the same place every week is the joy in seeing the changes. In Southern California we have little opportunity to mark the seasons. June is one of my favorite months because of the fog. It brings something new and varied from our typical sunny and seventy degree day. But at the beach, the moon rules the tides, storms bring in surf from thousands of miles away, and seaweed and driftwood float to the shore, creating their own natural groupings and sculptures in the sand. These changes show the creativity of nature-the many possibilities of color and texture, of smell and sound. All these things feed my creativity-something that is necessary to keep me moving forward.
The routine of things is necessary for our survival; I am fascinated by the twenty-four hour clock. By the waking and sleeping we need, by the automatic grumbling of my tummy three times a day. We live in a structured world, and the ticking of the clock, the passing of the seasons, and the waking and sleeping provides for me a template for my writing life as well. I wake in the fives. Write during the sixes and sometimes the sevens, and am off being a mom and editor, nurse and chauffeur, baker and candlestick maker for the rest of the day.
I bring up routine because, just like in our every day lives, the structure of the routine somehow frees us to be more creative. When the boundaries are there you don't have to fret over potential chaos. There's no worrying about what to do on a Wednesday. I have plans; I'm headed to the beach! So in the framework of my day-I write, the family rises, we eat breakfast, I do a little cleaning, laundry, maybe start a batch of bread... and then we're off to the beach, buckets and shovels in the trunk, hats and sunscreen at the ready. It's something we do-it's Wednesday and we go. And when we're at the beach, time stops. We play, we walk, we throw rocks-it's different every time. There's always a surprise, so we find the unexpected in the framework of the expected...
Stories are just like my Wednesday beach days. They are framed, placed in a structure so that the reader doesn't have to fret about the potential chaos. Boundaries are gently placed around the story so that the writer can then let that imagination fly, but still have the words make sense!
So I encourage you to choose a day, maybe it's even just once a month, when you can get yourself out into nature to see what adventure comes your way. I'm convinced you'll find something unexpected there...And the healthier we are as people, the more refreshed and more productive we will be as writers-as people.