Category Archives: Reflections

Spaces to Concentrate

Linda in Mexico.
Linda in Mexico.

This week and next I’m spending my mornings taking my grandson to swimming lessons and writing. Together. When we arrive in Indian Head, he heads to the pool and I open the sunroof on my car, turn on my laptop and plug in the memory stick.

The pool, of course, is busy with lessons going on as well children running back and forth from the kiddie park while waiting for siblings to finish their lessons, a large number of grandparents (we’re the lucky ones sharing our grandkids lives) visiting, and an assortment of young people hanging out until the lifeguards and instructors have some free time.

Not everyone can write in the middle of organized confusion, but I can. I might even say I do some of my best writing under these circumstances.

Why?

Well, it occurs to me that in order to create a realistic world on paper, the writer has to be able to enter that world, which takes a huge amount of concentration. For example, that little ding that I have a new email in my in-box is a terrible distraction when I’m at my desk. A new post from one of my favorite sites beckons like a piece of peanut butter & marshmallow squares, just begging to be sampled. And speaking of food, well, the beep-beep-beep of the bread maker demands that if I want raisins in my pumpernickel bread it’s time to go and add them.

Distractions. A writer’s life is all about getting away from distractions.

At the pool, though, there’s way too much going on to take everything in at once anyway, so it’s easy to ignore it all. There’s nothing I have to do — my one “duty” of the morning is to drive Jon to lessons, make sure he has his cell phone when he’s done, and drive him back to town. And in between that I have about 40 minutes of “nothing required time” to spend sitting in the back seat of my car, staring at my computer screen.

My first YA novel I did the final edit in the computer lab of the high school where I was working, with 25 students who all eventually stopped asking: “You still writing that book, Mrs A?” When the novel finally came out, it was a finalist in the Saskatchewan Book Awards, and many commented how authentic the teen voice was — no surprise there!

So, my advice to writers who struggle to overcome interruptions and distractions is to find those circumstances under which you can best enter the world of your imagination. They may not be what you think.

Persistence

Goldfinch
Public domain image of a goldfinch from: http://pixabay.com/en/goldfinch-finch-bird-yellow-328859/

I’ve always thought of persistence as being a good thing, as Benjamin Franklin said, “Energy and persistence conquer all things.”

However, for the past four days I’ve had a little American Goldfinch hammering on my office window, pecking away as if her life depended on getting whatever it is that she sees in the glass. And it isn’t just one piece of glass, but spots from the top of the window to low down on the wooden sill.

What makes a bird peck on a window &#8212 most claim the bird sees its own reflection, so is trying to drive away a rival. If that’s the case, this poor little bird must see a whole flock of goldfinches!

At any rate, as I rustled sheets of paper at the bird, to shoo her away, then eventually switched to the flyswatter when the paper clip slipped off and scattered a dozen sheets all over the floor, I thought about determination and persistence, and when the two become a stumbling block to moving forward, instead of a personal asset.

Writers, I think, often find ourselves in the position of the Goldfinch, determined to sell that picture book manuscript or mystery novel or whatever project it is that has taken hold of our imagination and won’t let go. Somehow, we manage to convince ourselves that our self-esteem as a writer is all wrapped up in a single project, forgetting that we have lots we could say on many other topics.

Perhaps Napoleon Hill said it best: “The majority of men meet with failure because of their lack of persistence in creating new plans to take the place of those which fail.”

And my little bird? Well, she’s only attacking the window a few times a day now, so hopefully she’s realized that whatever danger she perceives isn’t really there at all.

The Gift of Time

Linda Aksomitis
Linda Aksomitis kayaking in Georgia.

This summer I’m giving myself the gift of time. Antonio Porchia (Voces, 1943, translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin) said, “The flower that you hold in your hands was born today and already it is as old as you are.”

I’ve reached the age when I know that time passes much too quickly…

It occurs to me that as a teacher, I have the incredible opportunity to change the way I spend my time for those two long months of summer, when I can slip out of the daily routines of earning a living and slip into a slower time stream, more like the days I remember as child on summer holidays. Days when I thought summer would never end and I’d get back to the “real world” of school and friends and doing things.

Carl Sandburg said,Time is the coin of your life.  It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent.  Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.

This summer, I plan to do all those things I’ve put aside while teaching classes and meeting writing deadlines, for, as Mignon McLaughlin (The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960), said, “There are whole years for which I hope I’ll never be cross-examined, for I could not give an alibi.”