Writing for the birds

This guy works way harder than me.

Last week, some friends of a friend offered to let me stay in their secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere while they took a trip down south. I happily accepted. I saw it as a chance to finally write my book, which has been brewing in my brain for the last year and a bit.

What I’ve learned in that year and a bit is that there are no real instructions to writing a book.  Especially if there’s no financial incentive. So, you know, it’s taking a bit of time to write.

Having the opportunity to get out of town, alone, seemed like a no brainer to me. On top of being in the wilderness, I decided that I’d unplug from all my various technologies as well. That’s what real writers do when they need to get work done, right? So I packed (only) my leggings and sweatpants, rented a car, grabbed my dog and headed out on an adventure.

The first day there, I took my time in the morning. I was not on a real schedule. All I knew was that I wanted to be finished a 200 page book by the end of the week. So, I made a leisurely breakfast (the fridge was fully stocked) and then took a nap. At around noon, I sat down and wrote for four hours. It was coming to me, but it was all total shit. This was not my book. This was a pile of diarrhea.

I tried to shift my thoughts: If my writing was total diarrhea, then its contents were the nutrients I’d been ingesting for the past 30 years. Those nutrients needed to be expelled from my system eventually and it just so happens that I have indigestion at the time of doing so, and thus, my writing is total diarrhea. But excrement can be used as fertilizer, which can help nurture the growth of beautiful things, right? Right?

It was time for a walk. I took Dutchie to a nearby trail. She sniffed around happily while I watched a woodpecker. I watched as it patiently tapped at a tree, waited a few seconds and readjusted itself on another part. It tapped with such steady and graceful precision. It had a job to do and it wasn’t going to give up.

I went back to the cabin and took another nap. I decided to check my iPhone to see what I was missing in Vancouver. Apparently there was a whale in False Creek. I made some dinner and decided to call it a day. I watched DVDs on my computer for five hours straight.

The next three days were astoundingly less productive. I gave up on the book by the second day and instead started writing a short essay I’d been meaning to write for a while. My days were becoming less and less about writing my book – or anything else for that matter - and more and more about making elaborate meals way too big for one person, walking in the woods, checking my iPhone every hour, napping in the sun and watching birds.

By the last day, I stopped beating myself up for my lack of accomplishment and just enjoyed the luxury of being alone, away from home, in the wilderness.  My book was not ready to be written. I decided this was okay. I had no other real choice.

On the last morning at the cabin, I got up early and took Dutchie to the woods.

The woodpecker swooped by us and settled on a nearby tree. It pecked away. Precisely, gracefully, and patiently. 

It had a job to do. I marvelled at his work.


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