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Summer, Travel, and the Art of Not Writing

I've been a bit distracted lately, which has caused me to Not Write.

First of all, it is hot.  Not like 90-degree hot.  Oh, no, that's not good enough for us.  We are suffering through 106+ weather, which is hot, hot, hot.  It is so hot that we poor Portlanders don't know what to do with ourselves other than shut ourselves up in air-conditioned rooms–which runs counter to the Portland creed of All Outdoors, All the Time.  So the pug and I are mostly confined to the one small room in my house that has an air conditioner.  And we are so very grateful that we have it or else we would be staying at a motel.  If we were lucky enough to find one that had a vacancy.  As it is, I barely slept last night.

Besides weather, I've been distracted by family.  This is a good distraction, unlike the first one.  I'm fortunate to have two sisters.  (I miss my third sister, who died December 15, 2007, terribly.)  Sis #1 is a former flight attendant who lives in Phoenix.  Sis #2 lives here in Portland and is a fabulous graphic designer, should you be in need of one.

This weekend, Sis #1 came to visit and stay at my house.  We had such a great time!  But great times are not necessarily conducive to great writing.  As a matter of fact, when one is having great times, one can easily forget that one aspires to be a great writer.

Except, here's the deal.  Even when one is Not Writing, one is still writing in some way or another.  And though in many ways I haven't been writing, in many ways I have.  To wit:

The first thing I had to do in advance of Sis #1's arrival was clean the house.  I'm a lousy housekeeper, because most of the time I wander around thinking about writing and can't be bothered with cleaning.  But the one good thing about housecleaning (and its the only one I can think of) is that it gives you plenty of thinking time.  Never underestimate the amount of thinking time that it takes to commit words to paper.  As a matter of fact, I believe the need to think deeply about writing is one of the primary causes of writer's block.  It is hard to think deep thoughts, especially if one has had even a tiny bit too much wine the previous evening, or if one is dehydrated from blastedly hot weather.  So, thinking time is good.  Which probably means I should rethink my plans to hire a housekeeper so I never have to clean again.

Secondly, on Saturday we took a drive up to the wonderful town of Hood River, a wind-surfing mecca on the Columbia River about 60 miles east of Portland.  I love this town.  The main street is full of cute shops, not the least of which is a fabulous bookstore, and great restaurants.  We happened into the Hood River Hotel, an historic landmark, and decided to eat there on a whim.  Good choice–the food was fabulous, very French bistro-ish. 

Travel is excellent for producing ideas, even a minor little day-trip.  I find it all inspiring.  Not only the part about being in a different place or culture, but the part about being in transit.  The motion of driving or flying often seems to jar loose something deep inside (maybe some of those profound thoughts) and I find myself scribbling madly.  That didn't happen this time, but it could have.  Had it not been so hot.  For real, travel forms new ideas in one's brain that may pop up days, months, or years later.

And, now that my sister has returned home and the heat wave has descended upon us, I have spent the last few afternoons ensconced in the one air-conditioned room with my computer.  Have I gotten any writing done?  A wee bit.  Like this blog post.  And some editing here and there.

(Speaking of which my friend Linda Busby Parker has posted an excerpt of my novel, Emma Jean's Bad Behavior, on her blog.  Check it out–just head on over here and click on the Novel Gallery page.)

But I digress.  To return to the point of this post, as writers we are never really Not Writing.  So even if you feel you are Not Writing, give yourself a break, stop for a minute and ponder what other things you are doing that might be contributing to your quest to be a great writer.  I bet you'll be surprised.  And most important–quit beating yourself up about Not Writing already.  The more you beat yourself up about it, the harder it is to get yourself back to it.

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