Escape to the Woods
As I’ve thought about the “what do I want from 2011” subject, I’ve found it hard to narrow my wish list down to one thing. I’ve been in the land of big goals for the last few years, and I have achieved many of them. Yay for me. Unfortunately, that comes at the price of a lot of other things, usually those small grace notes that make life more than an act of survival.
I’m not talking huge stuff. I’m thinking of afternoons on the couch reading, time to sort through my collection of movies, or hours spent idling in a garden centre wondering if pink petunias would look better next to celosia or thrift. In other words, all that fun and variety we tend to forego when faced with monumental goals, such as making an unreasonable book deadline (And let’s be honest—when faced with that due date, they all seem unreasonable.)
Ironically, not only do those idle hours provide R&R, they also afford the opportunity to push the envelope. Just as big projects tend to jettison that afternoon spent getting a pedicure, they also squash any chance a writer might have to develop whacky ideas. There isn’t the time to make up stuff for the sheer joy of it.
This is a sad thing, because that’s where a writer gets practice with ideas and techniques that can later go into “real” writing down the road. I knew a fiddler who called this kind of activity “woodshedding”—that is, going out into the garage where no one could hear him and making his mistakes with impunity. When he was satisfied with his new licks, he’d come back in and share. Everyone—from gymnasts to chess players—needs that safe space to take risks and to feel the metaphorical wind in their hair.
So my goal for 2011 is to go reacquaint myself with that woodshed, and to try something daring. Maybe it’ll make it into a published book, and maybe it won’t. That’s not the point. It’s the sense of play and freedom I’m after. Call it research and development or call it goofing off; I want to see what craziness my brain is capable of.