Category Archives: Writer

Work, rest, play, or all three at once

What did you do for work this summer?

For rest?

For play?

How often did you work, rest and play at the same time?

Those questions were the topics for discussion at my church recently, and we were surprised to discover how often we choose to spend our time doing things that feed us in more ways than one.

Rocky shoreline of Lake Huron
I spent some time this summer on the shores of Lake Huron.

Gardening, for example, is work for sure, but meditative and joy-filled too. We take days to prepare for camping trips and more days cleaning up after, but the time spent resting by the campfire or playing in the lake make it all worth while. A hike up a forest path accelerates our heart rate and strains the muscles, and then we get to enjoy the view and sleep really well at night.

When those questions were asked of me, writing came to mind.

Facing down the blank page is hard work.

Writing is hard work. Whether it’s paid work for my jobs or labouring over the second draft of my novel, I must give of myself mentally, physically and emotionally—sometimes painfully—to get words on the page.

I also play with the words, move them around, change them, and chew on them until they feel just right. I feel that jolt of joy when I know that I’ve captured some elusive idea exactly right.

I’m a writer because it’s something I need to do. When I have fulfilled that need, expended the energy and played with ideas, gratified rest follows. Even if I know a work is not complete or that I will need to revisit a paragraph or concept, I rest with the same sense of accomplishment that the hiker experiences at the top of the mountain. The rest serves my writing too. When I step away and then return, the time away gives me fresh perspective and I see ways to make the work even better.

What did you do this summer? Did it feel like nothing but work? Did you play? Have you rested?

The garden sanctuary I look at when I am working, playing and resting while writing in my back yard.

Happiness is . . .

Welcome mat reading "this is our happy place, at the bottom of a set of stairs.

This is the welcome mat below deck of the Pride of Baltimore II, a Baltimore Clipper tall ship, circa the War of 1812.

The crew of the Pride of Baltimore II find their joy on a craft that catches wind in mighty sails that carry them across the bounding main — and the Great Lakes. They rest easy on a ship that can anchor when needed, save them in peril, and fire up weapons to fend off foes.

Their happy place is nothing like mine — I prefer dry land, uncrowded sleeping space and luxurious showers — but I find joy in knowing that the crew of the awesome tall ship is in their happy place when skimming across glinting waters .

What is your happy place?

July 4, Zimmerman, finishing, and weeds

On this eve of July 4, I could write about how much I love America. What a beautiful, amazing country it isand how I’m worried about it.

In the past, when I travelled internationally the first question people asked when they heard my accent was: Are you American? Now, it is: Are you Canadian? Best not to lead with “America,” I’m told, because people who aren’t American get too offended.

Internationally, things are not great, America. Just sayin’. But I’m pulling for ya!

Or, I could write about how my son graduated from university and how proud of him I am. And how convocation ceremonies are the most joyful, mind-numbing experiences we humans have ever come up with. At my son’s convocation we celebrated when he kneeled to be hooded, and when we reached the final name in the looooooooooooooong list. Zimmerman! Yay!

I could also write about how I’ve finished a first draft of a novel after writing for a really, really, really (really) long time. I had started to wonder if I would ever finish. I have. Good for me.

Exploding fireworks

But that’s really all I have to say about all of those things. But because I’ve been finishing my first draft, travelling to my son’s grad, and celebrating Canada Day, I haven’t had any time to weed my garden.

Weeding . . . that’s a good topic. I recommend you read about it on Tuesdays with Laurie: Gardening.

An invitation to ponder the people, places, things, events, and opportunities in your life that are not positive, uplifting, constructive, or healing, or that don’t support the best version of you. I’ll do that while I’m in my garden pulling out actual weeds.

Weed-filled flowerbed

The power of simple gifts

I attended the CanWrite! conference in Vancouver, BC on the weekend.

During the open mic session on Friday night, Jean Kay of Poetry to Inspire told a story that showed how simple gifts can ripple out and multiply in ways we never anticipate.

Every morning as part of a meditation practice, Jean writes a poem. She has published her poems in books, she writes poems for special occasions, and she sells printed copies of special prayers, like this “Prayer of Thanks.”

A prayer card with a prayer by the title of "Prayer of Thanks" by Jean Kay

Recently Jean was selling her work from a booth at a promotional event. A woman picked up a “Prayer of Thanks” card. “I have been saying this prayer every morning for thirty years,” she said.

Startled, Jean took a closer look. The woman—96 years old that day at the booth—was a former co-worker that Jean hadn’t seen since she presented a copy of the poem at her retirement party thirty years ago.

The woman had gone home after the party, stuck the card in the corner of her mirror and recited it every day since. Jean had no idea that her work, her thoughts and her words had been rippling steadily through all those decades.

That retirement story reminded me of another friend’s recent retirement.

My friend, Brian, retired a few weeks ago after being a United Church minister for forty years. At his final service many of the people whose lives he had touched showed up to support him and to let him know how deeply his work, his thought and his words had affected them.

In his final sermon he referenced the story of the loaves and the fishes. He had started in ministry with only simple gifts to offer. Like the loaves and the fishes, they seemed like they’d never be enough. But with time and grace, his simple gifts were enough. They more than enough. He “fed the throngs” and has leftovers besides.

Simple gifts are all any of us have to offer. They might seem like they’re not enough. But a prayer of thanks, support through grief, kind words, belly laughs . . . they ripple out over the decades.

Those simple gifts are more than enough, with leftovers besides.

Rippling positively …

What I learned from my aunt

In honour of my aunt’s 80th birthday, I’m re-posting a piece from a few years ago. Blessings to her again!

A woman on guitar beside a toddler on piano
Aunt Erma and my daughter entertain – 1997

My Aunt Erma celebrates a birthday today. She is a strong woman in a family of strong women. I’m proud to say that when the women in our family have an idea or a purpose, stand back.

From her I learned:

  • How to be authentic – You might not agree with my Aunt Erma’s opinions on any given matter, but you can be certain to know what they are. She never puts on airs or hides her true feelings behind a façade of false politeness. I admire her forthright approach to life and the authentic soul I see because of it.
  • How to tell a tale – My aunt has had many stories published in the local paper, and her writing group—The Henscratchers—published a book. I appreciate her ability to capture life in a story or a poem.
  • How to weather a storm – She has had more than her share of uncommon heartbreaking events in her life—the kind that knock you off your feet for more than a few days. I respect her strength and resilience in bouncing back, picking herself up and carrying on.
  • How to entertain a whole room – Give my Aunt Erma a guitar and some elbow room, and she’ll happily provide the songs for the night. She and her sisters (including my mother) have sung together at community events. I envy her enthusiastic ability to sing out without inhibition.
  • How to teach with calm assurance – My aunt was the kind of teacher who kept order in the classroom and expected the best from her students. She’s petite, so her authority came from her manner, not her stature.

There’s a whole lot of power packed into a diminutive woman in my Aunt Erma. I would say that she’s like her mother in that regard (my grandmother), but I’m not sure she’d like that. .

Like all strong women, she might have ruffled some feathers over the years. More than one person might have shaken their head and said, “Oh, that Erma . . .”

If I can live authentically, inspire with calm assurance, weather life’s storms with strength, live to tell the tale and entertain a whole room with songs, then I will be happy to ruffle a few feathers along my own way.

Book Cover for Pick of the Crop by the Henscratchers
The book published by her writing group.