Thursday, July 19, 2012

Past Deadline: Once Upon a Time

Did I ever tell you that when I grow up I want to write books?

When I left a full-time reporting job at The Perth Courier 12 (gasp!) years ago, the plan was to take a year and see whether I could make my novel-writing dream come true. I felt very brave. And quite poor.

Before long, though, all sorts of people started offering me writing and editing work – for money. Drawn by the appeal of not starving to death, I switched gears and grew a business (with some teaching and a column on the side) – and here I am still.

It’s a good gig and very diverse. Being self-employed has challenges (sometimes all deadlines come at once and the boss is a slave driver) and rewards (I can blare loud music in the home office and have constant kitchen access).

That said, every once in a while I get a hankering to write that Great Canadian Novel or whatever it may be. It’s a feeling I’ve had since elementary school; that I was meant to work with words and that I have stories in me to share.

Summer brings this out most intensely. Maybe it’s because my writing dream was strongest when I was a student and “figuring it all out” – I always felt particularly inspired in the summer.

Maybe it’s because summer offers opportunities to stare up into starry skies or float on water and gaze into an unending cloudless blue canvas or marvel at a symphony of fireflies in a field of lowing cattle.

Maybe it’s because the drama of friendships or summer boyfriends or being home-from-away was incredibly consuming or because summer holidays with family took us to new places where we had new experiences and made new friends.

Maybe it’s because in summer, as a kid, it seemed easier to live in the moment. The future seemed so vast and open. There was more free time to read for fun and be inspired by other authors or practise poetry or write endless Deep Thoughts in journals.

Whatever it was, I find it hard to ignore the rustle of leaves in a summer breeze without wanting to write about it. Did you know those same leaves sound different if that breeze is at night? How about a symphony of barred owls, bullfrogs, whip-poor-wills and night hawks?

I can’t swim in a lake without wanting to describe how the water cushions my body and lifts my spirits or how it conjures up the complicated rush of unpredictable emotions that went along with teenaged crushes and flirting on beaches.

Everything reminds me of something or inspires. The sound of transports on a distant highway. Trains rushing through the night. The lonely call of a loon on a quiet lake. The wind in pines and the warmth of a hammock in the sun. The smells of a new book in a canvas tent or cocoa butter sunscreen or campfires or rain on warm pavement. The feel of comfortable jean shorts and a clean white cotton T-shirt with a globe on it. The wind against my face on a swing.

These small things are all part of something bigger – stories I hope are yet to be told. See, there are snippets here and there, collections of words and parts of things written in stolen moments. I am finding that when there are only so many hours in a day, there just isn’t always enough time to write a book, too, but at least my jobs enable the writing in some form.

So I guess all this means is that I still haven’t grown up. Does anyone know when that might be? Do writers ever really grow up? Hopefully not.

Published in The Perth Courier, July 19/12

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