I always thought writing was an art form, a creative expression of a situation, feeling, event or relationship. I know now it is not. It is a discipline, that requires focus, organization, a tad bit of skill and dogged determination.
“I want to write but there are so many other things that need to be done first.” That is the excuse my tenant in the basement uses a lot. “I need to have a space for my files, papers, pencils, computer, printer, books, pens, pictures, china, dishes, cosmetics…before I’ll have the space to sit down and record my memoirs,” she says with a sigh and a defeated drooping of her shoulders. It’s taken her 4 months to arrange her apartment to her satisfaction. She has shoe boxes, plastic stackable containers and cardboard dividers in every drawer and counter. Moving from 800 square feet to 300 square feet can’t be easy. Accumulated stuff piles up in sheds, cubbies and storage space, trophies of 94 years of living. She’s already written one book encompassing 4 years of homesteading in the Cariboo with her husband, Ron. Taken from letters, pictures and journal entries it’s a precise, grammatically perfect rendering of the steps to attaining homestead status in the 1940’s. She began writing it at the age of 86, finished it at 89, published it at 90 and now sells to friends and acquaintances, the odd bookstore and a few libraries.
Her challenge, along with sleepiness, cancer and chronic indigestion, is taking the next step. Writing about the next 30 years, building a resort on Ruth Lake from the humble homestead, her years as the secretary to the opposition leader in the 60’s, working at a shipyard in London, England and then retiring in Nanaimo with her husband. How do you tell that tale in between extensive naps, the need to organize boxes of kept paper treasures and a 94 year old brain that doesn’t remember things quite like it did in her 80’s.
John and I plan to live till we are in our 100’s and are trying to build a big enough nest egg for our retirement. We tend to put some things off because of that effort, till we are older and less busy. But it’s still procrastination. AT 55 I’ve already dropped memories from my youth and my past. I can’t imagine what I will have forgotten at 102. Leaving the writing till I have more time, or till my space is just right or when I have the land and quiet I’ve always craved, is dangerous. It might never happen!
I can’t afford to wait until the mood is right, my inspiration is high or my space and time is perfect. Perfection is fleeting and so subjective. Any writer, me especially needs to have discipline, forget the environment or timing. Just put pen to paper and write what you see in any given moment, whether that’s a memory, a dream, a conversation, or a conjured picture. So last night, with eyes sleepy from days of menopausal insomnia, I sat up in bed, placed my laptop on my thighs and began to write. Not about anything earth shattering, world changing, humorous or inspired, just a thought, a captured idea, a moment of careful consideration. And perhaps a lesson for another writer, that the only perfect moment is the one you discipline yourself to record in writing.