The Writing Life: Berry Picking

Berry_fruit_fruits_241170_lWhen you're a writer (or any kind of creative person) you link everything back to your writing.  At least I do, and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one.  It's the nature of the creative process to become a sponge for everything around you.  This is particularly true when you're in the middle of a long-term project.

Lately, part of my writing life has included berry picking.  We drive out to the berry farm on nearby Sauvie Island, the same farm where my son and daughter-in-law got married three years ago, and pick marionberries, raspberries and boysenberries, then bring them home and either freeze them or make jam.  I spent most of last Saturday making jam, so come on over if you need some for your sandwiches.

Since I was making jam on Saturday, I wasn't writing.  And therein lies the crux of a dilemma: do I spend my free time writing or my free time doing fun things like berry picking?  For years, the answer to this for me has been writing, hands down.  And, it still is. 

Partly this is a matter of choice.  As I've recently realized, nothing has held the same consistent interest for me over the years as writing.  My interest in cooking waxes and wanes, and, though I love crafts, especially those of the fiber variety, I'm an on and off partaker.  Because, most of the time I'd truly rather be writing.  While this has its upside for word count, it has a downside for things like clean houses, nutritious meals and interest in the kinds of things that normal people talk about.

Partly, though, I think that the writing bug gets inside you and won't let go, like a virus that cannot be eradicated.  For instance, I live with the constant internal exhortation: you could be writing, you
should be writing, you would be writing if only you were more
disciplined.  I sometimes wonder what it must be like to be a person who is engaged in creative activity and thus doesn't feel the constant pull to be working. 

On the upside, I haven't been bored in the last 5,000 years.

But then there's the question: does all this focus on writing make Charlotte a dull girl?  (You could ask my family and friends–no, don't!  I don't want to hear the answer. )  It's the age old question: do you spend time writing or go out in the world and find something to write about?

I did the latter this weekend, and enjoyed the Zen quality of berry picking, the bees buzzing about the fruit, the taste of the berries when I just had to pop one in my mouth, and the sun beating down on my scratch-covered arms.  (I wrestled with a few raspberry bushes.)  And when I got home, I loved the alchemy of turning berries into jam, using pectin and sugar.

And, I found something to write about.

Photo by yohanl.

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13 Comments on "The Writing Life: Berry Picking"

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07/15/2013 16:50

I picked wild blackberries when I was a youngster. Time has a way of mellowing almost everything. When I think of those berries, I remember my mother’s blackberry cobbler. I have to force myself to remember the heat, the bugs, the briars, the sunburn, the chiggers. My cousins and I went through a lot to fill our little pails, but it was so worth it.

07/15/2013 16:52

Even though the writing bug may pester us to write, and making us feel guilty if we don’t, some times you just have to let go for a wee bit and have a little fun and relax. Whether it’s berry picking, golfing or just being a bum around the house, we all need to get away sometimes. A little relaxing break, even if it’s just for a wee bit, can help renew your writing spirit and I highly recommend it, and especially after the day I had. I watched in horror as a lady tried to commit suicide on one… Read more »

07/15/2013 18:46

Nothing better than fresh-picked berries, chiggers or no! Loved hearing about your berry picking, J.D.!

07/15/2013 18:48

Look for that email with the jam coming soon! Wow, how traumatic to see that. I'm so glad somebody came to the rescue. Go do something nice for yourself, Don!

07/16/2013 08:51

Daughter says: NO, you are ANYTHING buy a dull girl, and I’m guessing the rest of the clan would concur.

07/16/2013 09:00

You're the best daughter a woman could ever have!  Not to mention you produced the most brilliant, adorable and perfect grandson a woman could have also.  And I'm glad you don't think I'm dull. 

07/16/2013 09:12

I agree with your daughter, your anything but dull. However, I’m not too sure about your berry jam. The berry jam you emailed me the other days has yet to arrive? Maybe it got ‘jammed’ up in my inbox or something? Anyway, speaking of berries, I remember when I was a wee boy, a very long, long, long time ago, I went wild berry picking. I worked hard the whole long day and I was super proud with the haul I had made, thinking I’d be rich once an eager public bought them all from me. Alas, my mom broke… Read more »

07/16/2013 09:30

The jam must have gone into the spam file.  Loved your story about picking berries, Don, and it reminded me that as a kid I used to ride the berry bus out to the fields and pick berries for money.  We left at 4 AM and it was a long, hard day in the fields, but it was one way to make money back then!

Suzanne C. Robertson
07/16/2013 10:35

Farthest from dull girl as you can get, so take that off your list of worries! Have you seen this video of Ann Patchett talking about how she has no hobbies — except for reading? It’s great. If life would allow me, I would do the same thing, I do believe. Take a couple minutes and watch:

07/16/2013 11:34

Great interview, thanks for sharing it.  And, I do also have to point out that Ann Patchett has no children.  So she's been able to sit on the couch and read for her entire life without being interrupted, unlike the rest of us mortals.  And–she's great, I love her.  And I love you, too!  Thanks for chiming in.

07/17/2013 02:54

Dünyada dönen bir kalleş düzen cilt bakımı yapmak güzellik uzmanlarına düşmek çok basit.

07/26/2013 01:38

I have a list of things I want to do this summer to refuel myself and get inspired—berry picking is up there. I think there are times when, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we know that we should be writing. But in the same way, we know when we should be living.

07/26/2013 07:23

I love your sentiment that we know when we should be writing and we know when we should be living.  So true!  Thanks for commenting, Natalia.