Please GO before it’s too late. Not to worry. A horde of flatulating zombies isn’t trudging your way. I want you to get out to discover what being outside can do for your writing.
Non-obligatory disclaimer: Common wisdom says to creating a designated writing space in your home helps the brain associate the space with writing and engage more readily. But it’s summertime! And I live in Michigan. Gnats stick around longer, so I want to enjoy the benefits of being an outsider before it’s too late.
Before you head out, here’s what to pack:
Two snacks. (One will be your real snack to refresh you when you need it, and the other is to eat shortly after you head out because once your brain knows that snack is there. We both know it will nag you–like a six-year-old who hears the ice cream truck coming–until you consume it. Do so without guilt or worry. Snack two is there for you.)
Hand sanitizer. This relates to the aforementioned.
Sunscreen. You want to produce masterful writing, not squamous cells and saggy skin, right?
Bug spray. One less distraction.
Water. Do I have to explain?
Electronic stuff. Fully charged phone for taking photos, recording ideas or even sounds, calling your agent to tell her how lucky she is to have you, and so forth. Fully charged laptop.
Legal pen and pens/pencils. Even if you don’t typically write the “old school” way, you may need it if your laptop stops.
An ID. This is for emergencies, like when you are blinded by your own brilliance and need help returning to base camp.
Something to sit on. (This one is destination dependent.) Think beach towel or a wee cush for the toosh.
To me the outdoors is what you must pass through in order to get from your apartment into a taxicab. ~ Fran Lebowitz
Oh, Fran. Fran. Fran.
And now, shall we step outside?
Sit on your deck/balcony/patio. Now, be prepared. The writing molecules in your gray matter may go all fizzy, but that’s temporary. Once you’ve acclimated, start a fast-as-you-can-type list of everything your senses are delivering to you. Describe those physical sensations. How do they make you feel emotionally? As a result, what childhood memories come for a visit? Be sure to keep your list in a folder for future reference to add depth and authenticity to your story.
Head to the beach. Listen to the water and the gulls, of course, but tune your ear into children at play, the sounds of distant volleyball match, the flap-flap-flap of a beach umbrella. Record what you see, how your toes feel in the sand, and the smells, both inviting and repulsive. (Is that a dead fish? Seaweed? A diaper?!)
Foamy and frothy/ribbons white/reflecting soft sunbeams/to our delight/foaming in crests/rippling warm sands/tracing their patterns/on the dry land. ~ Poem from “Seashore” by Suzy Davies
Linger at a sidewalk cafe. You’re not eavesdropping. You’re doing research. This is your chance to snatch random phrases, tone of voice, and humans interacting in their natural, caffeine-laced environment. What does the rude person say? (What’s making them behave this way?) How does the barista respond? (What’s really going on in her head?)
Walk around the block. Pay attention to the houses, yards, driveways, front stoops and porches. Record whatever captures your imagination. Why is that front door wide open? Why is that woman running with a leash and no dog? Is someone cooking sauerkraut? Oh, my gosh, I think those kids are having a pet funeral. A bike with a basket? I remember those. What’s with that beat up car? I never saw that bumper sticker before. Look at that poor dog. Oh, he must belong to Leash Lady!
Maybe freedom really is nothing left to lose. You had it once in childhood, when it was okay to climb a tree, to paint a crazy picture and wipe out on your bike, to get hurt. The spirit of risk gradually takes its leave. It follows the wild cries of joy and pain down the wind, through the hedgerow, growing ever fainter. What was that sound? A dog barking far off? That was our life calling to us, the one that was vigorous and undefended and curious. ~ Peter Heller, Hell or High Water: Surviving Tibet’s Tsangpo River
Hit the trail. Walk or bike, either way, see what the woods or a desert pathway can do to stimulate your senses. Close your eyes (once you’re off your bike!). Perk your ears. Suck in a chest full of that fresh air. Watch for critters or signs of their presence. What natural magic do you find?
None of your knowledge, your reading, your connections will be of any use here: two legs suffice, and big eyes to see with. Walk alone, across mountains or through forests. You are nobody to the hills or the thick boughs heavy with greenery. You are no longer a role, or a status, not even an individual, but a body, a body that feels sharp stones on the paths, the caress of long grass and the freshness of the wind. When you walk, the world has neither present nor future: nothing but the cycle of mornings and evenings. Always the same thing to do all day: walk. But the walker who marvels while walking (the blue of the rocks in a July evening light, the silvery green of olive leaves at noon, the violet morning hills) has no past, no plans, no experience. He has within him the eternal child. While walking I am but a simple gaze. ~ Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
Park it. Take a blanket for flexibility or pick a park bench. Watch kids play. Listen to random bits of phone conversations as people pass. What’s the status of the remaining wildlife here? Are the squirrels timid or cheeky? How do the birds behave? What are they pecking at? Is that . . . ooo, I smell popcorn. (This is fortuitous since you’ve already snarfed down Snack 1 and Snack 2, haven’t you?)
Fewer and fewer people are raised outside of cities as the decades progress. Nature is sometimes not available for generations of children. Sad state of affairs. ~ Efrat Cybulkiewicz
Let confetti fly! Pop those crackers! Pour that bubbly! Welcome 2022!
Oh, sure. It would be customary for me to make mushy wishes on your behalf, my little cinnamon scones. Instead, I intend to be more daring–times three!
I DAREYOU to finish the manuscript (or at least the chapter?) that left you quivering in a quandarous quagmire in 2021. (Preemo alliteration, eh?)
I DOUBLE FROG DAREYOU to return to the drawing, dummy or color palette that refused to please you in 2021. Let someone else take a look. Come at it in a fresh way. Be brave and start again, if need be. Bend it to your will!
And NOW, for the coup de grace!
I TRIPLE FROG DARE YOU to move that niggling idea (you know the one–because you can still hear its incessant yammering, can’t you) and nudge it from an annoyance to something tangible–some research, a sketch, a character interview, an outline, a synopsis, a diagram, a doodle, a crappy first draft–ANYTHING that moves it from a freeloading concept plopped on the couch of your cranium to a visible “thing” squinting and squirming in the light of day. Then, go ahead and amuse your muse!
(And in case you’re wondering: I am taking myself up on my own dare. Confession: I have a novel revision I’ve been “skillfully” avoiding for TWO years by working on other projects. I pacify myself by perpetuating the limp excuse that at least I’m productive. Sure. That’s true. But have I accomplished anything from my heart (the scary, vulnerable novel writing)? Have I faced my fear of the overwhelmingnessity of this particular revision? Noop. I know avoidance is futile. Creativity-leaching. And ultimately, well, dumb. I don’t want to be dumb. 2022 is my year to face the, uh, Frog!)
What say you, my little peppermint chocolate macrons? Will you join me?
Frog on a Dime looks forward to bringing you new guest interviews, inspiration and words of encouragement. Whatever this New Year brings, take heart. We will trudge and triumph through it together.
Hope Smiles from the threshold of the year to come, Whispering ‘it will be happier. ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson
For last year’s words belong to last year’s language And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning. ~ T.S. Eliot
We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day. ~ Edith Lovejoy Pierce
Oh what a pleasure it is to proclaim the winner of this year’s Summer Open House giveaway drawing.
Congratulations go to Lori McElrath-Eslick! You will receive your very own, one of a kind doodle, personalized with your initials or those of someone you love.
Please send me a message with your preference and mailing address, and I will get to doodling!
Heartfelt thanks go to everyone who entered the drawing. Your comments and kindness are most appreciated. I will think of you as I doodle more curlicues, spirals and paisley patterns. I hope you will doodle away the summer too!
Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers. ~ Ray Bradbury
To taggle along with “What a Doodle Can Do for You,” I invite you to visit Frog on a Dime and enjoy taking a look around. Snoop all you like. (Yes, you can even look under the lily pads!) Read posts, check out the quote collection, the inspiration page for young writers and much more. It’s all yours to explore.
While you’re here, please leave a comment on whatever post speaks most to you.
Your comment is your ticket to entry into Frog on a Dime’s Annual (Virtual) Summer Open House giveaway!
You can win:
A swirly whirly one-of-a-kind doodle created with care by yours truly. If you choose, your doodle can be personalized with your initials or the initials of someone you love incorporated into the design.
To enter the 2021 Frog on a Dime Summer Open House Giveaway:
Simply leave a comment on any post–past or present, whatever suits your fancy!
Deadline to enter:
High Noon (EST) on Wednesday, August 11.
(And ahem, leave a comment on more than one post, and you’ll get an EXTRA chance to win!)
In spite of everything, I shall rise again; I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing. ~ Vincent Van Gogh
A strong visual imagination acts as a magnet to draw the visualised into reality. ~ Anupama Garg
And according to the article’s author Srini Pillay, MD, “Even American presidents have found themselves sketching away: 26 of 44 American Presidents doodled, from Theodore Roosevelt, who doodled animals and children, to Ronald Reagan, who doodled cowboys and football players, and John F. Kennedy, who doodled dominoes.”
A writer’s job doesn’t exactly involve executing laws, appointing federal officials or negotiating with Slovakia. So, why do I need to doodle? For me, doodling is a way to get out of my own way. If I’m writing and get stuck (more like, “when” I get stuck), I pause and pick up a pen. Mindlessly making swirls and random, unpredictable designs is a practice that calms me. It provides a chance to hush my harsh inner critic because doodling has no right or wrong. It just do.
Doodling can helps me puzzle out a plot predicament or conjure a more fitting name for a character I’ve become better acquainted with. It keeps the gnarly wheels in my noggin’ cranking, but in a more productive way versus self-sabotage.
Doodling can also be a delightful way to douse stress. Allowing yourself to get lost in an in-the-moment design can relieve tension by putting a distance between you and fret. Worries about your writing and whether you can move ahead are nudged to the margin while you push that pen. You can return to your project mentally replenished.
My Little Strawberry Rhubarb Tart, if you’ve never tried doodling as a companion to your creative process, I encourage you to give it a try. The only way you can go wrong is to think about what you are doodling whilst you do it. Pretend you’re giving the paper a side glance. It’s just there to catch the ink. And you don’t have to use fancy paper or snazzy pens. (If you take a look at the doodle below, you’ll notice I did it on nothing-fancy notebook paper.) You don’t have to worry about composition, what color to use or creating “art.” Just free your pen and the mental rest will follow.
She drew the things that stuck to her mind, the things that caught her attention and, specially, the things she wasn’t capable of understanding fully. But she hadn’t even realized it. Art had become her way of processing reality. ~ Zoe Haslie
Everybody has inner creativity that has been lost amongst the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The small part of us that provides balance and calm, and releases our creative side, is smothered and in risk of dying completely. ~ Lana Karr
To say mathematics is not my thing is like saying cliff diving is not a giraffe’s thing.
And yet, I am compelled to confirm an important number, so I do the math.
2021 – 1963 = 58
Yep, there it is.
I’m turning 58 years old this year. Yeesh. I’ve never been so old.
And with every passing year, I feel the mounting pressure to be published. That pressure is entirely self-inflicted, along with the self-condemnation and self-doubt. I’m really quite self-sufficient that way.
Year marker 58 was anticipated to be much the same. And then, I heard a few simple words from a wise literary agent that hit a reset button I forgot I even had.
“Be gentle on yourself.”
It’s easy to be gentle on others, isn’t it. It’s no effort to remind them how genuinely talented they are, and easy to encourage them to look back at how far they’ve come.
Maybe I can give it a go with myself too. It will be a squabblesome, disorienting pursuit I’m certain. But being gentle on myself sure sounds like a welcome birthday gift.
Say, you’re having a birthday this year, aren’t you? Why not treat yourself to some gentleness too.
Be gentle on yourself. ~ Kirby Kim, literary agent with Janklow & Nesbit
Follow your compass, not your clock. ~ Alvina Ling, VP, Editor-in-Chief, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Learn to be kind to yourself. Let your mind free, close your eyes, breathe deeply and remain calm. Life is majestic and meaningful enough. ~ Shaa Zainol