About two months ago, I was riding my bike along the canal next to our house. It was rainy and muddy. A couple was coming the other way, carrying large shopping bags. Each of us moved to opposite sides of the sidewalk, ready to pass each other, as you do, and as I have done dozens of times before. But I must have ridden too close to the edge, or maybe the mud really was slippery – either way, I fell into the canal, and if the couple hadn’t caught me, both me and my bike would have gone for a swim with the rats.
It’s lucky that the most I got out of the thing was a scraped palm and a fright.
I’m looking at my hand now – there aren’t any visible scars, but if I run my fingertips over it, I can feel where the scrapes were, and I can still remember, sort of, what it felt like when they first happened. There was numbness, and then I couldn’t close my hand into a fist, rest it against any surface, or even turn my wrist around much.
That day, I came home, took a shower, sat down at the computer and finished editing my weekend project. A week later I started querying.
That fall was probably the most dramatic way serendipity has made itself known to me, ever. I’m not going to recommend it as a way of curing writer’s block – it’s painful, unsanitary, unnatural. One might say – just like writing! – but no. No. Writing is the opposite. Writing helps make sense of the world. Sure, there’s a lot of getting your hands dirty, but that is where the similarities end.
This post has been in draft mode for weeks. It is now 2016, the first round of queries is almost over, I’ve not had a single favourable response, and I’ve managed yet another big revision of my project. None of this had anything to do with the calendars changing or Santa’s presents. And try as I might, I cannot find the reason within myself, either.
My conscious self, at least.
I look now at my little “writers” shelf. Julia Cameron, Dani Shapiro, Ursula le Guin, Natalie Goldberg, Angela Carter. Each in their own way mentions the seasons, the ebb and flow of life, the ebb and flow of creativity. Dry seasons and rainy seasons. Finding ways to persevere, finding a toehold so that you don’t get carried away. I was raised to automatically dislike anything remotely New Agey, but if lived experience is anything to go by, there is a truth to the seasons theory. We get to work when we’re ready. The point is to be where we need to be ready to work.
Most days I work from home. I’m often within reach of a phone or a notebook or a laptop. The day of the fall, my mind was wandering, and I kept muttering snippets of dialogue under my breath. But I didn’t sit down to write. I had been feeling dried up and demotivated, from digging that proverbial well, and I thought it would be more of the same. I wasn’t paying the attention I needed to be paying when I mounted my bike and headed off.
The universe decided to give me a lesson and really scrape my palms.
I guess it’s a good thing it doesn’t have to make its point so obvious every time.