Knowing where and when to walk in the creative process


I’ve been thinking about writing. Well, when am I not thinking about writing? Five days steeped in the work of a woman that I deeply respect and know without a doubt has influenced me in ways that I am only beginning to understand. I think the way I wrote in my journals shifted a little after I read the first volume of L.M. Montgomery’s journals in the mid-1990s. I wonder as to the effects of reading the Emily books in my early 20s when I was just beginning to evolve as a writer and my own spiritual understanding of the universe. (Clearly both of these questions continue to dominate my life, but it shows how far back these thoughts go.) And, there is the eternal quest to have it all…the writer’s life, the life partner and spiritual understanding…although after this week’s conference, I think that I need to go back and see what else is going on there…

Although many papers that I listened to this week left me with much to think about, two papers were particularly significant for me. The first was Elizabeth Epperly’s paper in which she linked Montgomery’s influences to her own writing of metaphors. She explored brain mapping and symbols and how there are “bridges” both physically in this world, but also, not of this world. Although she didn’t come out and say it, I couldn’t help but think about the ideal of a writer physically linking his or her work to those of the past. As part of a vast consciousness. It made me wonder about the things that I subconsciously do as a writer without knowing it. Who am I tapping into? Who am I linked to? Well, I would certainly say Montgomery (and probably James Joyce and Laura Ingalls Wilder.) But who else? What part of the vast consciousness am I tapping into?

The other paper was a wonderful one by Kate Dycus called “Footprints on the Landscapes of Artistic Creation: ‘Wanderlust’ in the Emily Books.” Dycus explored how walking is part of the creative experience. She picked out various times in which Montgomery talked about walking and how important that was to her general health and well-being.

At one point, when Montgomery had fallen and broken her arm and couldn’t write, she sunk into a depression (no wonder as she couldn’t creatively express herself.) I couldn’t help but think about my own fall this past year and the profound effect it had on my creative expression and my sense of my own mobility.

Now that I am able to walk without pain and for long distances, I am not only extremely thankful for having my mobility back, but I am reconnecting with a part of my creative spirit. I do a lot of reformulating and clearing of the mind as I walk. I understand completely Montgomery’s need to walk as part of her own process as I think it is actually a big part of mine.

As you know, through May, I spent many weekends outside writing. I think that this is an important part of the process to locking oneself away, even if that room is one’s backyard. But I now wonder what a good walk would have done. I hope that I have the foresight to find out next time.

But, the big moment for me, was getting up there and giving the talk. After six months of careful preparation, I was there with my power point slide and You Tube videos talking about the perfect man and boy crushes. A variety of people were in the audience, including two people that I was quoting in my paper. I prayed that my diligent fact checking had paid off and that no one would think that I was misquoting them.

What is funny is that even two days before, I was editing. My perfectionist took over again, but this time for good reason, as I was a few minutes over the allotted time line. It seems though, that I am not alone in this! Who knew, that other presenters were going through the same thing! Apparently, having too much to say is quite common and finding a way to put all of that into twenty minutes is normal! I have to admit that this was a bit mind blowing for me as I believed all people who had more experience in this than I would not fall into the same predicament. But, here again, I am forced to recognize that my own private angst isn’t so unusual at all.

So, with my twelve pages, now ten, I began my presentation. Before I went up, I closed my eyes and tapped into my solar plexus and asked that my voice and legs not shake when I went up. And, much like my reading at Banff last year, I stood there this confident person who seemed to know what she was talking about, cracking jokes and hopefully making people interested in what I had to say. People laughed when they were supposed to. No one told me that I misquoted them. Instead, I got some great questions and a few people approached me after asking if I would possibly do something similar for them in the future!

Throughout the day, people came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed the presentation and how cool and interesting it was. I received favourable comments from the guru ladies themselves, which admittedly made me feel like somehow “I did good.”

There is a call for papers for a book that will reflect the discussions of this conference, so I can now turn my attention to all of the things that I pulled out. I have that sense of doubt about having it accepted. What will happen if it isn’t? What will happen if it is? But, I think that I have been waiting for this for a long time.

One of my colleagues said that she saw these things in me two years ago and she is so excited that I went out and did this. She seems to see this path for me, before I’ve seen it myself. Sometimes I guess we do get in our own way. I guess that I am now learning how to step appropriately aside.

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About Melanie J. Fishbane

My novel, MAUD: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery was published in 2017 through Penguin Random House on April 25, 2017. I hold an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Here I talk about my writing process, things I love, and creative people who inspire me.
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