Live your questions

I get frustrated when I want something but can’t see the way toward it. I want to write and have something to share with my Restless Writers at each meeting, but lately I’ve been on repeat saying, “I don’t know what I’m writing. I don’t even know what I feel compelled to write.”

They listen and are more patient with me than I am because that’s not one of my best-known qualities.

Maybe that’s why I have this Rainer Maria Rilke quote on my bedroom wall:

Easy for you to say, Rainer.

But, at the last RW meeting, I committed to have a writing date with myself. To create purposeful time to check in and see what might happen. That was yesterday. I found a few hours. Stopped. Meditated. Brainstormed. Scribbled down some letters from the alphabet. Hoping beyond hope my muse would appear and transform the letters into prose.

She didn’t. They didn’t. All I got were random, disconnected words, as if I was playing Scrabble. It sucked.

I abandoned the effort. I went to play the piano and sing a little. Even that didn’t satisfy, so I started watching David Letterman’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. The interview with Tiffany Haddish. I didn’t even know who she was, and I didn’t finish the episode.

Later, I went to bed with no progress.

Today, however, I awoke to a rare April 20-degree morning of warming sunshine. With a cup of tea in hand, I cozied up under the trees and with the sparrows in my backyard paradise. With no thought to writing, I randomly opened an old blog I kept about nine years ago and pulled up a post called “Being in Love with Not Knowing. Here’s a snippet:

“..the journey is to decide how we’ll walk our path – in terror of the unknowing, allowing it to paralyze us to stay in one spot, or to become in love with it and embrace the unknowing for all its possibility. The beauty of reaching “no idea” – having absolutely no idea – means you are now open to any idea…Sometimes you need to go through the “I have no idea” stage because the answer cannot yet be given. You have to take one more step and then another one. Let go and trust the path will soon become clear again. Be committed to taking one more step, and with that, become free and open to new possibility.”

Looks like I was channeling my inner Rilke. I read a few more old posts, which led me to read a few others’ posts about writing.

And then it happened.

I wrote!

A new poem released from within. My heart sang as my fingers typed for the first time in months. Look at that. I have something to share with the Restless Writers at our next meeting.

And I’ve published a new blog post!

I had let go and lived my questions. I guess Rilke and my former self were right. Beautiful things can happen when you sit with your not knowing. Maybe not right away, but they do. Release. Presence. Observation. Possibility.

Yes Andrea. Patience 🙄

What do you do when you have no idea what to write? Do share.


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Find your lid.

Guys! The cutest new coffee shop opened in my neighbourhood. It’s bright, friendly, independently owned and just a 15-minute walk from home. While this might not seem like a big deal, trust me when I say it is. Having a local gathering spot in this suburban hood where ne’er the words “double-double” or “grande” are spoken brings me such happiness.

In addition to great drinks and a fun vibe, one of my favourite things about the new spot is the lids. More specifically, the plastic coffee cup lids – each one of which is adorned with a handwritten note of daily inspiration.

Truth be told, when I first laid eyes on this lid set up, my pandemic-induced germ aversion left me a little unsure. Thoughts of random hands touching every lid, using a black Sharpie to add ink right next to the place where my mouth would be? Was this really necessary? But I quickly became a fan. 

Never underestimate the power of words

It’s a small thing but the ritual of finding my lid is something I’ve come to love. Standing at the counter, waiting for my drink, my eyes go directly to the selection of lids laid out on their gold rack. Looking at all the choices is my chance to do a quick self check in – how am I feeling today? 

Need a little boost? “The world is a better place with you in it,” is the lid for me.

Ready to take on the world? “You glow girl!”

Beating yourself up? How about a gentle reminder that “every fall is a chance to rise.”

The real magic comes on the days where you don’t know what you feel and then suddenly a brightly coloured plastic dome is speaking to you and telling you something even you didn’t realize you needed to hear.

On the days I can’t get to the coffee shop and my husband offers to bring a tea home for me, I get the chance to see myself reflected in the lid he chooses for me. “Life is beautiful and so are you.” Of course there was that one time he brought me a lid that encouraged “don’t just live, exist.” Mmmmm, pretty sure it was a typo but even the mixed-up messages leave me smiling.

The words are small and simple but they’ve got my back. Like a little plastic hype man that leaves me feeling energized, engaged and ready to take on the day. 

Take a minute.
Start again.

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“How’s that novel coming along?”

Honouring your unofficial accountability partners

How many times have you been on the receiving end of a question like this?  

“How’s that novel coming along?” “Have you finished your book yet?” “When can I read that short story?”

No matter who asks me this kind of question—my writing group colleagues, my sister, or a random well-intentioned stranger who hears that I am a writer—I have an emotional, visceral response. An internal shudder. A surge of irritation. An immediate need to run away or hide.

I find it’s easy to respond with a little white lie: “Still chugging away!” Or a deflection: “It’s fine. But tell me about your new job!” Or a half-hearted attempt at a joke: “You’ll have to wait a bit longer—I’m holding out for a 6-figure advance and a Netflix adaptation.”

If I’m feeling especially fragile, I want to lash out with sarcasm or venom. Or just cry.

It’s no fun being reminded that your work in progress is just that—a work in progress. As in, not done yet. Especially if you feel stuck, if you’re comparing yourself to another writer, or if you had planned on reaching whatever word-count by now. Maybe you haven’t written anything in weeks, and the shame and self-loathing is gnawing at your insides. Maybe you gave up on your novel and turned your focus to renovating your laundry room, or gardening, or moping. (Been there.)

Whatever plot problem, personal vulnerability, or other form of writer’s block has caused your project to stall, it’s not the fault of that friend or family member who innocently stumbled into your creative dark night of the soul.

Instead of blasting that hapless individual or succumbing to those negative feelings, try this instead:

Pause: Take a deep breath. Sip your drink. Tie your shoelaces. Do something to give yourself a moment before you respond.

Smile: The action of using your face muscles to smile can have an effect on whatever negative emotion you’re actually feeling. Basically, fake it ‘til you make it.

Say thank you: This person is taking an interest in you and your writing. They don’t know about your internal struggles. They probably care about you and genuinely want to know how it’s going.

Clock your response: Notice the emotion you feel in response to their inquiry and reflect on why it set you off. Think about why you had the emotional response you did.

Be honest with them: You’re not obligated to tell this person why your writing has stalled. That’s between you and your muse—or you and your therapist. But if it feels right in the moment, share that the writing isn’t going as smoothly as you like. They might have some words of wisdom, or at least a sympathetic ear.

Be honest with yourself: If something isn’t going the way you want with your writing, you’re the only one who can change things. Ultimately, you’re responsible for moving forward with your creative project. Whatever has you stalled—lack of time, lack of motivation, boredom, frustration, a problem with craft, a problem with structure—it’s up to you to dig into that challenge and find a way through it.

As unwelcome or uncomfortable as those questions are, they can be the kick in the pants you need to get back to writing. Taking a closer look at why questions like this set you off can help you understand what’s keeping you from moving forward.

And that can ultimately help you turn discomfort into action.

How do you handle questions about your writing?


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Craving calm

I’ve been getting outside more to walk. The days are still cold, sometimes unkind, but they’re redeemed by the sun making a more regular appearance. The warmth feels good on my face, and it’s got me dreaming of the new seeds I’m going to plant and the healing tea garden that will soon come to life in my backyard.   

Whether I’m walking in my neighbourhood or on the Bruce Trail, there is a recognizable silence that comforts me. I hear only my own footsteps, the birds chirruping, and the sound of squirrels rustling up dinner prep. Few people are out yet doing yard chores in the cold, with the exception of our 80-year-old neighbour who can always find a way to make me feel like the laziest human. 

Most days, I spend my time on a device, on a project, on a mission, always go-go-go. It can be an internal skirmish, as I’m a person who craves calm. So, at the end of the day, I attempt to lace up my hikers, and get myself outside. The silence of the outdoors helps me function, it unlocks my mind to new ideas, new recipes, dreams—you name it. 

Scientists who study brain scans already know that moments of creativity take place when the mind is at rest. When I’m outside or simply relaxing, I can feel my brain begin to free itself. So naturally, I find myself craving slower living. One activity that has been cultivating calm for me is seeking inspiration in other artists—artists who embody relaxation and share this special ability with the world. Here are a handful of my favourites, in case you too can benefit from their stories.

Maria and the Forest – An artist, educator, and filmmaker sharing her interest in plants, foraging, and rural life in the countryside of Norway.

The Cottage Fairy – A quiet cottage fairy seeking a gentle life as an artist and writer in rural Washington State.

Martijn Doolaard – A photographer, filmmaker and travel writer from the Netherlands living in the Italian Alps.

Mother the Mountain Farm – Sisters caring for a regenerative farm on Bundjalung Country on the East Coast of Australia.

I hope you can find calm in these stories, and be brave enough to give your brain leisure. It is this that will help you carry your ideas, your writing projects, perhaps even your career, to the next level. As the weather starts to warm, my aim is to get outside daily. You might even see me carrying a basket, as my YouTube friends have all inspired me to forage in the nearby woods.

Thank you, Maria, Paola, Martijn, Julia, and Anastasia. Keep posting, you are an inspiration!

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Making trade-offs to achieve your writing goals in 2023

Thoughts on burners, balance, and blending

It’s “new year, new you” season. If you’re a writer like me, you might be planning how you’ll approach your projects this year. And if, like me, you know you’ll take on too many projects this year and you see the dreaded stress, burnout, and soul-sucking disappointment on the horizon, lean in. I’ve got some thoughts.

James Clear, a writer and thought-leader on human behaviour and productivity, has written about the “four burners” theory. This theory envisions your life as made up of four quadrants, like four burners on a gas stove. Those four quadrants are family, friends, health, and work.

The four burners theory maintains that if you want to be successful, you can’t have all four burners going full-blast at once. You have to turn the gas down on one burner if you want to be successful, or cut one or two burners off completely.

Clear confesses that, at first, he wanted to find workarounds, so he could keep all four burners going and still be successful. For example, combining burners—such as friends and health, or health and work—but he eventually came to terms with what the theory is telling him about choice.

“Essentially, we are forced to choose. Would you rather live a life that is unbalanced, but high-performing in a certain area? Or would you rather live a life that is balanced, but never maximizes your potential in a given quadrant?”

James Clear

My two main thoughts from Clear’s article are this: 1) Work-life balance shouldn’t be the goal; and 2) Four burners doesn’t tell the whole story.

One: Work-life balance shouldn’t be the goal.

We are not bottomless wells of energy. We can only spend so much of our attention and energy and focus at a time, and we can’t keep up all aspects of our life on “full gas.” That way lies the aforementioned stress, burnout, and soul-sucking disappointment. But as Clear says, aiming for balance might mean that you aren’t excelling in any one area. Ideally, we should strive to put the right amount of energy towards the specific quadrants of our lives where we want to excel, when it makes sense—but it can’t happen all the time. You can’t give everything equal energy. Throughout your life, different burners will take precedence, and you will have to focus on them for as long as needed.

Bill Howatt, chief research and development officer of workforce productivity at Morneau Shepell maintains that there is no work-life balance. For Howatt, it’s all about blending your time.

“Most of us don’t live in two separate worlds where at work we focus only on work and at home we focus only on home.”

Bill Howatt

This blending concept resonated with me. I work from home, and the lines between those two domains are blurred. Hands up if you find yourself working over your lunch break or checking messages while you do laundry in the evenings. Keep your hands up if you also end up “homing from work”—making doctor’s appointments, checking personal emails, or throwing the laundry in the dryer when you’re on the clock. There’s no clear and definite separation, thanks to technology and the changing expectations of the workplace.

Instead of finding some elusive sense of balance, Howatt recommends using the tools of awareness, accountability, and action to find the perfect blend of work, home, and the other burners of your life you have to keep simmering.

Two: Four burners doesn’t tell the whole story.

The thing that really stuck in my mind was, why only four burners? I found myself hung up on the fact that the four burners model doesn’t represent my life.

As someone who works a day-job, does freelance work, writes in the early and wee hours, and pursues a variety of other projects and initiatives, I find the “work” label too simplistic.

I also volunteer. Is that work? Friends? Health?

Some people get great meaning and fulfillment out of their spirituality, and attend services and events related to their faith community. Where’s the burner for that?

Semantics? Perhaps. Maybe I need to forget about the specific burners. Maybe I need to make my own imaginary stove with enough burners to represent my life and have each one labelled appropriately: family, friends, work, writing, health, volunteering. We are each of us unique individuals with a wide variety of interests and responsibilities.

What it boils down to is no matter what burners I have on my stove, I can’t give them all equal energy all the time. I will have to choose for myself which quadrants of my life need the most attention and when, and how to light the other burners back up when it makes sense.

As Clear says, it’s all about trade-offs.  Am I okay with dialing back my creative pursuits while I ramp up my volunteer commitments? Can I give my partner less attention than my current WIP and still feel okay with it? What are the trade-offs that I’m willing to make?

These are the kinds of new-year thoughts I need to mull over this month.

What burners make up your stove? Have you ever had to put a burner on simmer while you gave another one more gas? How did it go? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Happy 2023 (and happy writing!) from the Restless Writers!

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Life Lately

It’s been a minute since we’ve said hello on the blog. That is singularly the fault of this RW who was assigned a new blog post back in May. I’ll also lay some of the blame at the feet of summer. From traveling, family-ing, prom-ing, and gardening, to working (including new jobs!), swimming, house-improvement-ing, relaxing, and vacationing – we activated summer mode in June and have not looked back. 

You may have noticed one important verb missing from the list above – writing. There’s no way around it, in the last few months our RW endeavours have taken a bit of a back seat to the stuff of life. We’re all feeling it.

So, what are we doing about it?

We’re getting crafty

To help fuel our creative brains, we decided to switch things up for one of our recent meetings and pivoted from pages to paint brushes for an art night. Usually reserved for the holiday season, our Christmas Creatives are an annual event the four of us look forward to every year, where we pick one night to make a craft. We’ve made some gems over the years like these wooden signs, paper stars and even a tree made from plastic spoons. For our most recent endeavour, we decided to keep things simple and stick to painting. With no real agenda for the night, other than to create and eat, I’d say we nailed it. See for yourself…

We’re kicking ass at other stuff

Sometimes, when you feel like you might be falling down in one area, it helps to remind yourself that you’re rocking it in others. While the RWs may not be on top of their personal writing projects right now, they are knocking it out of the park in some other spheres. I asked each of them, “what is one thing you are kicking ass at right now?”

Andrea: Great and tough question. I guess what I’m kicking ass at is taking care of myself physically and getting better at taking care of myself mentally and spiritually – letting go and trusting myself more. I would also say I think I’m good at creating space for my kids, guiding them and finding support for their unique needs

Becky: I guess what comes to mind for me is getting shit done. I’ve been a master project manager with stuff at home. 

Maria: Right now, I am kicking ass at…for the first time in my career, finally being able to say that I’m a professional writer and editor. I’m incredibly busy, but it’s wonderful to be able to do the thing that I’m best at and mono-task.

And for me, I’d say it’s looking after my people. The summer has been filled with big milestone life events, birthdays and rights of passage and I have been front and centre for all of them, cooking up some thoughtful and fun celebrations to make each one feel special.

[Side note: This exercise is tougher than it sounds. Almost all of the RWs said they felt stumped by this question or had to really think about it. Were they comfortable saying they were doing something well? Yes. Pretty well? Sure. But kick ass? That made some of us a little less comfortable. Maybe we need to start a kick-ass corner on this blog to exercise that muscle. Hmmm…stay tuned]. 

We’re pushing forward

If I’ve learned anything since becoming a RW, it’s that you don’t give up. There are seasons where you will find yourself writing more and sometimes less but you keep going. So, that’s what we’ll do. We’re breaking out our calendars to set a date for our next meeting, where we will continue to connect, encourage and cheer each other on. And eat. We’ll definitely still eat. We kick ass at that too!

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Dear Restless Writers…

I’m really sorry.

I haven’t been pulling my weight. When’s the last time I contributed here? Too long to remember. That’s how long.

The truth is, I can’t find any words.

Well, not exactly true. I have lots of words. Too many words, but they’re all scrambled and jumbled in a heap at the end of my bed. They look like a fall leaf pile, but void of colour. And there’s a bunch that have blown under the dresser with the dust bunnies and in the back right corner of the closet behind the dress I bought for my niece’s wedding I never got to wear because of COVID. I’m sure there are some behind the toilet too. I haven’t checked. And frankly, I don’t want to.

I’m ashamed of that. I wish it was otherwise. I wish the pile didn’t overwhelm me.

I guess I could rake it up, take it to the curb and start fresh, even if I know I’ll keep finding more laying around.

Meh. I’m pretty sure a new pile will form anyway.

I wish the pile and its possibilities could excite me. Entice me to jump in and start rolling around, not caring how many get stuck in my hair. That used to feel fun. Discovering a vibrant, perfectly formed word – the quintessential series of letters that took hold and inspired me to hunt for more. Line them up. Rearrange them over and over again. Play with their shapes and sounds.

But the pile makes me feel tired right now.

Every word looks dry, like it would crunch and crumble to my touch.

I’ve left them too long. I haven’t known what to do with them. So they kept accumulating. I’m pretty sure my husband slipped and swore at one the other day. Frustrated I’m not doing anything with them.

So, here I am, asking you for more time–again. There might be a fresh one in there somewhere. Maybe soon I’ll catch a glimpse of a word I didn’t pay much attention to before that suddenly needs me to pick it up and find a better spot for it than on the floor.

That’s probably why I’ve left them there all this time. Why I keep gingerly stepping around them. Part of me likes them there. A reminder of who I’ve been and might be again.

I suppose there is hope in the pile. I’m just writing to tell you I haven’t found it yet, and I’m sorry.

– Andrea

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Confessions of an Idea Hoarder

Happy new year from the Restless Writers!

Today’s post is all about getting your new year started with a writing idea clean-up.

Imagine running out of ideas for your writing. It’s the stuff of nightmares. You sit down at your computer or pick up your pen, ready to leap into a new story, and there’s…nothing. The well has run dry. The spark has been extinguished. The horror, the horror!

I have lots of challenges when it comes to my own writing, but running out of ideas isn’t one of them. My problem is usually the opposite. I have plenty of ideas. My idea cup overfloweth. Every day I get at least one new idea, if not more. I have ideas tucked into notebooks, written on the backs of phone bills, jotted quickly into Evernote or a draft text. I have ideas that I never got around to writing down, but they’re assembled in the central idea-hub of my brain, hoping to be plucked from the crowd and turned into something amazing.

It doesn’t seem like much of a problem, right? Isn’t it better to have too many ideas instead of none?

Generally, yes. But I hoard my ideas. That idea-hub in my brain? It’s jam-packed, and I’m not sure how much more I can cram in there. My ideas are spilling out all over the place. If I’m not careful, I’ll trip over a pile of ideas while trying to do something important, like cross the street or remember my sister’s phone number.

I hesitate to throw any of my ideas out—what if I lose my best idea ever? What if I need that idea again someday, when the ideas flow more slowly?

At the same time, I’d like to get rid of some of those ideas that—let’s face it—are just not going to work out. I’d like to free up some of my brain to focus on the ideas that I can craft into good stories.

The new year seems like a good time to give my idea-hub a thorough cleaning. I have decided to take the same approach I would take to decluttering my closet: take everything and lay it all out to have a good look, and then divide all the things into four piles (or files, in this case): KEEP, REPURPOSE, DONATE, or TOSS.

Want to join me? Here’s how you can think about what goes in these piles:

  • KEEP: This pile is for those bright, precious, and meaningful ideas that you know will make great stories some day. They have longevity, impact, and potential. Keep these ideas in a file or notebook close at hand. Finish whatever it is that’s keeping you from pouncing on any one of them right now, or make the time to pick one and write it into being. Make a promise to yourself that you will focus on these beautiful ideas, one at a time.
  • REPURPOSE: You might come across ideas that are really not very good, but, when you take a closer look, you will see they have the kernel of something usable. It could be a word, a phrase, or a feeling it evokes—whatever it is, you can use that tidbit. You might also be able to re-work the idea into a different piece, like a poem instead of a novel, or a blog post or a drabble. Stash these ideas away, and see if you can work it into another piece later.
  • DONATE: Could someone else use that idea you don’t care for anymore? Give it away! Share it as a prompt on social media. Use it as an exercise for your writing group. Suggest it as an option for a fellow writer’s WIP. Be a good literary citizen, and support your fellow writers.
  • TOSS: Even the best ideas lose their luster over time. Maybe they are so dated that they are no longer workable. Maybe you came up with these ideas at a different time in your life, and now they make you cringe. You really don’t want your grand-kids to find these ideas in a dusty box in the attic after you are gone. So get rid of them. Delete, erase, bury, rub out, strike-through, burn. Make a ritual out of it, if you like, giving a small prayer of gratitude to your muse for giving you that whacked-out idea in the first place. And then get back to those good ideas.

Hopefully these tips will help you clear out some idea-junk, so you can focus on the ideas you can really work with.

Have fun with your idea clean-up—and your writing! Maria

Photo by Guilherme Rossi from Pexels

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Eat, Sleep, Write, Retreat

Finn Fabulous

Writing Retreat—take four!

After three failed attempts to leave town for our annual writing retreat, IT FINALLY HAPPENED.

Each day leading up to our anticipated departure, Andrea sent us giddy one-liners to remind us how many sleeps until our retreat. The countdown was on, and we couldn’t wait for that insanely valuable gift of time. Time to connect, time to let the mind wander, and time to write.

For many months, COVID had sent our creativity into free fall. Each of us consumed with long days of work and family responsibilities, combined with ambitious attempts to restore balance and good health. Sadly, the pandemic has kept us apart, and has contributed to some stalled progress on our writing projects. We’ve been without our in-person creative nurture network! Retreat bookings canceled, deposits returned, optimism shattered—until last weekend.

Writing in the Garden Room

It was a hot July day when we all converged upon a local B&B, an elegant Victorian mansion built in 1848. It was the ideal blend of country quiet and city convenience. The house was an eclectic mix of antiques from a distant and gracious time, with silver tea sets and crystal Sherry decanters in almost every Italianate-style room. We were welcomed by a sprawling verandah, an elaborate front parlor and library, a billiards room, and a breezy screened-in garden porch, perfect for listening to the pitter-patter of rain. There was even a friendly and persistent cat named Finn, who was quickly adopted (for the weekend) by Maria. The place was oddly reminiscent of living in a game of Clue or perhaps even a lazy and drawn-out visit to Aunt Jocasta’s home at River Run in North Carolina (see Outlander).

This time around, we forfeited any kind of agenda (a rarity for us gals!). The weekend’s theme simply emerged as a time of refocusing—get back to the writing. After quick consensus on our theme, some loose rules started to make themselves known. In about 20 minutes, we had a retreat plan, or rather, a mantra starting to form to guide our time together.

SCRATCH: Our billiards cocktail, made with Dillon’s Rose Gin, tonic, soda, and lime.

It went something like this:

  • No judgement
  • Everything is okay
  • Be free
  • Stay hydrated
  • No apologizing

This mantra was uttered repeatedly over the course of four blissful days.

We began the retreat with Prosecco and a writing exercise. And we left with new pages, and new optimism.

In our daily lives, we work hard as professionals and as parents. We deserved this self-funded getaway and the writer self-care it provided. It was the perfect blend of solitude and connection. To us, our writing retreats are the “room of one’s own” Virginia Woolf championed; the time to rest, think, walk, ponder and just be; and the faith that, as writers, we deserve this time.

Restless Writers, I’m adding this one to our mantra above, as it bears repeating:

We deserve this.

Walking is as important as writing; it helps us think!

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Filed under Blogging, Group meetings, Inspiration, Motivation, Retreats and conferences

Old friend

It’s been a year now that we’ve all been living the pandemic life. The Restless Writers continue to feel grateful for our good health and that of our families, our jobs and the time we still carve out for our writerly quartet. 

For me, the last year has been one that’s compelled me to take stock of many things in my life, including the progress of my current writing project – a novel I started back in 2016. Yes, you read that correctly. After hitting a bit of a roadblock last summer, the RWs encouraged me to take a step back and do an inventory of all of the chapters I had under my belt. Maybe seeing the big picture would be just the thing I needed to spark the next step in the story.

It seemed like an easy enough assignment and I anticipated the self satisfaction I would feel, seeing all those chapters lined up together. My roundup hit a roadblock right out of the gate. While I had saved the last three chapters of my book in a document file on my laptop, the first six chapters were stashed on a family hard drive.

“No problem there,” I thought. I found the hard drive, plugged it in, and dutifully waited for it to hum to life. Except there was no hum. I tried connecting it to a different computer. Nothing. I tried a different USB cable. No luck. I began to Google and ordered a special, more powerful USB cable online during lock down. Nada. The weeks went by and I searched YouTube, looking for a solution. Screwdriver in hand, I popped off the plastic casing to get at the hard drive disk and try it in a new docking station. Things were going from bad to worse and I started to panic about all those chapters I hadn’t seen in so long. 

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

I did what any good writer would do and lamented about my hard drive dilemma to my RWs at one of our meetings. All that work, just out of my reach. “Oh, no problem,” said Maria. I have everything you’ve ever sent us. I’ll save the chapters on a USB stick for you.” And just like that I was back in the game.

Maria dropped the USB key around to my house on a Friday evening and it sat on my bedside table for the next three days. I was nervous. Like making plans to see an old partner after many years apart, I wondered what the pages would look like. Would I still find them exciting? Or would I wonder what in the world I had been thinking when I wrote them?

On the fourth day, I plugged the USB into my computer and there they were in a little folder, “for Sharon.” The comfort of seeing all the chapters nested one under the other was real. I dove in, reading.

To my amazement, much like it does in love, the distance from my early chapters did make my heart grow fonder. There were definitely a few sections that made me cringe, including a long-forgotten plot point that even had me shouting back to the page,”what?” But, on the whole, I still felt connected to what I had written and inspired to keep going and push through the final yet-to-be-written chapters.

This whole experience has given me a new appreciation for my writing and the way in which I take care of it. As Maya Angelou says, “when you know better, do better.” So from here on out, you can find me spending all the money on a good quality hard drive and utilizing a storage system for my files that has a backup for the backup. 

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. – Maya Angelou

If ever you find yourself in a similar predicament, may you have the good fortune to have a friend who’s flippin organized, has saved every piece of writing you’ve sent to her, offers to load it up on a USB key and hand deliver to your front door in a pandemic. Thank you Maria.

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