Monday, April 29, 2013

Endings and Beginnings

As we are so often reminded, for everything there is a season.  And when the season of intense work on writing a manuscript and choosing dozens of photos to illustrate it ends, it’s time for a season of renewal.

Lucky me—I sent off my next manuscript and photos just a day before flying off to a beautiful spa in Mexico called Rancho La Puerta.  I get the best deal there is—for my husband’s efforts in planning and carrying out three cooking classes using ingredients from the rancho’s amazing garden, I receive a free week to do as I please in this lovely environment.  Opportunities to participate in all sorts of activities abounded, but I promised myself I would just live day by day, moment by moment, during our visit.  Time and experience have taught me this lesson.  As children’s fiction author Bruce Coville reminded fellow author Jeanette Ingold when she worried about not having any new ideas following submitting a manuscript, the well gets emptied and must be filled again before we can proceed.

Garden and dining hall at Rancho La Puerta
I believe this principle is in play for nonfiction writers just as much as for fiction creators.  We fill our brains with facts and images.  We struggle to find the best way to organize our material to present it to our readers in logical, easy-to-follow sequences.  We get tired!  Our minds need to rest, to clear out what we no longer need to remember and make room for the new information.  And perhaps most importantly of all, we need to let the enthusiasm for the next project grow and let the “old” enthusiasm for the previous project fade.

This gradual process actually serves a dual function.  Not only does it set in motion a new enthusiasm, it helps us distance ourselves from the previous project, knowing that soon an editor will be pouring over our manuscript with a highly critical eye, suggesting changes, preparing queries, and, most dreaded of all, making cuts.  We authors must be able to distance ourselves at least a bit from that “old” project so we can react calmly to our editors’ reactions.
"Iris" awaits her mate on her Montana nest

And while we await that inevitable pain, we plunge into the next project, becoming increasingly involved and excited as we see the new possibilities involved with a fresh, open-ended topic.  I want to share my enthusiasm right now with a new project, a book about osprey research.  To me the most exciting aspect so far is learning about wild bird web cams.  I’d known they existed but hadn’t paid much attention until I got going on this project.  Two of the osprey nests in the study have web cams that allow anyone in the world with internet access to “spy on” these birds as they conduct their daily lives. ( and
 Such cameras are working in countries around the world on many bird species, not just ospreys in Montana.  As I write this blog, I’m watching a pair of rare black storks in Estonia and listening to the unfamiliar calls of European forest birds in the background.  For a person like me, who identifies so strongly with the natural world, it’s the perfect background music for writing—one bird chirps a lovely song as a dove calls sweetly, then passing geese honk overhead.

Writers like me are truly blessed by the opportunities of delightful discoveries that our work gives us.


Alicia said...

It was so nice on a gray Monday morning to hear another writer's enthusiasm about both the writing process and the time needed to recharge one's batteries. The photo was inspiring too!

Susan E. Goodman said...

I followed Molly the barn owl's web cam for years, until it was disbanded. It is sort of hypnotic and amazing that you can stare at a bird forever and get excited when he or she readjusts a few feathers.

Colette Plum said...

Your post was just what I needed this morning. It's a holiday here in Nanjing and I'm fatigued while also pressed with my own self-imposed deadlines. As writers we need this discipline, but it takes a special kind of discipline to intentionally rest and recharge. Thanks for this reminder.

Dorothy Patent said...

I used to play in racquetball tournaments and, when in the midst of a deadline, curse myself for the commitment. But inevitably after a weekend of intense ball smashing, I'd return to my project so refreshed I "caught up" in no time. But I didn't ever seem to learn the lesson!

Unknown said...

Thank you for your reflections! Right now I'd kill for an editor's red pen. Get me an editor! Show me the pain!

Also, I love the image of being serenaded by wild birds thousands of miles away. If you have a URL or two to share of the bird cams, please send. Might inspire me.