- photo by Lauren Markham
This morning I shared pancakes, eggs, and coffee with a friend at a local country café at a table bright with brisk December sunshine. We lingered for a long time catching up (the get-together was terribly overdue), but when we noticed platters of burgers and fries being served to the tables around us, we knew it was time to head back out into busy life.
We exchanged Christmas presents during breakfast, and while I received some really wonderful gifts this year, the gifts my friend gave me had extra-special meaning.
One was a pair of silk black velvet poet cuffs, to be worn beneath a long-sleeve blouse or jacket with Victorian flair. I buttoned them around my wrists and immediately ached for quill and parchment to pen a sonnet!
The gift was lovely, thoughtful, and inspiring—and I’ll treasure them.
Actually, my desk is populated with items that encourage me to write poetry and prose: a pair of fuzzy dice, a golden pear ornament, telling fortunes from take-out cookies, glittering rocks brought home from a Colorado adventure. I’m sure collecting inspirational tchotchkes is common practice for writers and artists, but I wonder how many of us take it a slightly strange step further.
For example, I have a beloved ratty sweater I wear while editing manuscripts. And to keep creativity flowing, I often wear a fabulous pink rhinestone jellyfish ring (Ebay!) that engulfs my ring finger. While completing a YA novel manuscript I wore an old apron, because one of the main characters ran an inn in the 1830s and many important scenes took place in the inn’s kitchen. And I’ll admit to one more. I put on a pair of giant disco ball earrings (salvaged from an old Halloween costume) when working on a particular middle grade novel manuscript. Don’t ask why; they help me think like a fourth-grader.
These items put me in a writer’s mindset. They are not triggers to embrace a particular genre or form, but rather a reminder to go for it—no holding back.
Creating is exhausting, and it’s like what I say about cooking: unless you’ve used every pot, pan, and utensil in the kitchen cabinets and the smoke alarm is going off, you’re not putting everything you have into it.
Please don’t be concerned—I write this (half) in jest. The other half of creation is good planning. I’m also an organized individual who likes to prepare for all possible courses of action. But I’ve sometimes wondered if this strange combination of care and abandon helps establish healthy ways to ward off fear and writer’s block.
The white that winter will surely bring is nothing more than the blank page waiting to be covered. Think those velvet poet cuffs will stay lovingly preserved in their pretty box?
Not a snowball’s chance.