During much of this spring, I’ve been in a creative lull – not exactly writer’s block but a definite slowdown. I wrote a few poems, I kept up with my twice-a-month blog posts and the newsletter, I wrote daily entries in my journal, but the energy I normally bring to my creative writing felt muted. The problem? After my book Night Court was published, I embarked on the enormous task of a self-funded book tour, and when that was over, I was in a state of exhaustion from which I needed more time than I realized to recover.
The tour itself was wonderful. Most of my events were well-attended, and I sold enough books to almost cover my expenses. Friends generously offered me their spare bedrooms, home-cooked meals, and, important for an animal-lover, time with their pets, whose wagging tails, wet noses and loud purrs helped me when I missed my own dog and cat. (One foggy night in July, I slept a few feet from poet Eileen Malone’s cage of rescued parakeets, where I heard them peeping softly in their sleep.)
I returned home from my final event in late October, but I still felt pumped up and eager to explore the many ideas I’d written in my journal during the tour. That vein of material lasted until late winter, when it abruptly ended. I poked around in my usual inspirations, but nothing stuck. I tried writing in challenging forms, got a poem or two, and then that ran out. I explored my new town of Eugene, Oregon; I attended poetry readings; I worked on videos; I tried to catch up on my sleep. I read a lot of books. I started watching The Americans. I dug up the lawn in my side yard and planted a garden.
Still, I knew that these activities were not really what I wanted to be doing. I wanted to be writing! My brain felt like a firmly clogged pen; no matter how much I shook it, the ink wouldn’t move. The one thing I felt enthusiastic about was my newsletter, Sticks & Stones, and I looked forward to receiving poetry books in my mailbox every few days during the submission period. Most of my creative writing energy went into writing reviews of the books I received, which forced me to write for a deadline, keeping the creative slump at bay.
And then one morning I happened to watch the sunrise from the east window of my kitchen. “Here we are on Morning View Drive,” my husband said from behind the newspaper. Something crashed in my brain and I knew what my next book of poems would be about. In fact, the topic was staring me in the face: nature. Later that day I searched the “Poems” file on my computer and found over thirty poems I’d already written about trees, weather, insects, flowers, weather, animals, stones and mountains. I had close to half a book there already.
A few weeks ago, I had dinner with a young relative who is a biology student at the University of Oregon. She mentioned that one of her favorite things to do is to look at the university library’s vast collection of amateur field notes. At that moment, I realized that “Field Notes” was the working title for my new collection. Of course. It was perfect.
Here are some “Field Notes” I’ve collected since April:
Joshua Trees look like lions in an infrared photo
fog is my weakness
let’s re-wild each other
clay – what the hell
“Bad” means “bath” in German
zucchini – what a giver you are
ever left something outside long enough for the weeds to grow around it?
a bit of earth
I need a garden to stay sane
save me blueberry
May your creativity blossom forth!