I’m a planner, as you may know. I like to keep things organized and to get a lot done each day. This year, I decided to put aside a busy life and have just one thing on my list: write a sequel to my Gunny Malone novel. In order to clear my list, my plan was to travel and write-in-place. To be inspired by the places I was writing about including rounding Cape Horn on a ship. To write as I followed the trail west from Virginia to San Francisco. To write as I spent time in Alexandria, Virginia, Washington, DC, and Charleston, South Carolina. And to write while living for a month on the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland.
I had worked on my plans for about a year. I had an over-sized map on my wall with places I wanted to go, things I wanted to see, and people I was going to stay with. I got camping equipment and a new car for the journey, one I could sleep in if necessary. I quit my job. I sold my house. And I hit the road on February 26th.
The trip around Cape Horn was spectacular and lived up to every expectation. I got a ton of writing done and felt completely in my element. But on the last few days of the trip, the world started to close its doors and we scrambled to get out of Buenos Aires before the airport closed till 6/1. A mere three weeks after I left, I was back, grounded, but not feeling grounded. And homeless, except for my car. Was this a time to car camp? No.
But the Universe provides and I was able to stay at a friend’s beautiful unoccupied house (Thanks, Tracy!) while I looked for a place to live. And the day after my return, I found a great apartment in downtown Portland that is a perfect, quiet place to write. I have my stuff and research materials back out of storage. And I have my cats back. (Thanks, Sam!)
What I don’t have back is my gusto for writing. I’m hearing this from many other artist friends, that artistic efforts feel forced and muddy during a pandemic. Who knew? But today, three weeks after I got home and two weeks after I moved into town, it’s time to write again. The plans are gone, but the dream of completing this novel lives on. I just have to find the threads to start the weaving again.
So what does an organizer do to get back on track?
- Make masks. They are things of beauty and feel a bit creative.
- Set up a writing schedule. I’m a morning writer. At least I used to be. What schedule will work best for me now? Old habits have been blown away. What new habits can I put in place to keep myself on track?
- Read. I can’t visit the places I was intending to go, but I can read and re-read historic books that are now out of storage and they will be a window back in time and place for me.
- Find inspirational places to write. I can’t go to a coffee shop or a museum as planned. But what about taking my notepad to a park? To the local cemetery? To the backyard garden? I was going to wing it on the road; how can I wing it now in a safe, socially isolated way?
- Write about isolation and the spread of a virus in my novel. There is nothing better than writing from a personal experience and in the 1860s, there were all sorts of fever scares. Can I thank the Universe for giving me this direct experience of isolating to fight an unseen foe?
- Be grateful that I did not come off a ship with a case of Corona virus; that my mom also stayed healthy; and that we got off that ship unlike others who left just after we did and are only now docking.
- Be grateful that I had house-angels help guide me to cool places to live at this weird, transitional time.
- Be grateful for helpful, friendly people I am meeting in town – at a distance!
- Find joyous moments if not days: Drink tea. Eat good food. Take hot baths. Get lots of sleep. Meditate to get to my peaceful, inner core. Exercise with my daughter’s now online Boot Camp.
- Watch no news; read news only at the beginning and ending of the day. With reading, you set the pace.
- Walk at a distance with friends.
- Host script readings on Zoom with my theater friends and revel at the joy of having scripts to read and theater friends to read them with.
- Go out for runs in a nearly empty downtown and picture what it will be like when coffee shops and pubs re-open and the people return.
I don’t know that life is going to feel “normal” again for a long time. This pandemic is changing who we are. It’s changing what we do for work. And it’s changing how we spend our time. I hope you find ways to make this time joyous for you. And that if you’re in need, you reach out and trust that someone will help you. I feel like everyone is pitching in to try and make this time better. I hope my words and the story I write will be part of the healing.
Sending you powerful light and energy as you travel this bumpy road.
Here are a few shots from the journey around Patagonia and Cape Horn. The world is a beautiful place. Nameste.
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8 thoughts on “Same dream; new plan”
Welcome back in a strange sort of way. Loved your ideas of how to organize our creative selves and find action in our lives instead of retreat during this challenging time. So very glad you at least were able to start the trip!
Hi Yvonne! Yes, I’m so glad I got started – and that we were able to come back off that ship! It was close. It’s so fun to have been on the run since the end of Feb, and now to feel settled enough to have creative bubbles rising again.
I hope you are well!
Thanks for all this, Janie. I trust you are giving your muse plenty of time to embrace the new now ( it won’t be “normal” for a long while ; maybe a good thing. Hoping you stay well. Let’s talk or Zoom in the next week or two.
Well, I gave myself 2 weeks to find an apartment, move in, upack, and make this home. Then last week I mostly went outside every chance I got! And now I’m ready to write again. It will be interesting to see how my current life challenges shape Gunny’s story :). We should walk soon!
You are one amazing person Janie! I love how you’ve captured what is going on and how it affects you,..with a positive spin! Your blogs are always inspiring and informative!
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Thanks, Tracy. For me, it is definitely helping to build some new schedules and habits. Not watching TV also helps for sanity!!
Janie, I love your blog. I read it often. I can’t wait for the sequel to Gunny Malone. I am inspired by your ability to accept the fact that your writing trip of a lifetime has been cancelled (postponed?) and to move forward in a wonderfully positive direction.
I was sad to hear about your divorce and sale of your home – which I never got to see! Selfishly I’m glad you are back in town. We live in Portland and we’d love to take you on one of our dog walking adventures- since you don’t have a dog anymore. We would keep our social distance!
Love and hugs
Hi Kate! I didn’t know you were in Portland. I’d love to do a dog walk! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.