This is my short essay on enjoying my writing life, included in WRITES OF PASSAGE, an outstanding collection of essays on the writer’s journey put together by Sisters in Crime and published by Henery Press.
“I’m one of those writers who loves to write. It was the joy of writing that prompted me to climb a tree with a pad and pen as a kid and sit up on my favorite branch to spin stories. Sixty-plus books later, I love to write as much as ever. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. A writing life can get out of whack for any number of reasons. No writer I know is immune, including me. So, I asked myself what do I do that allows me to enjoy writing as much now as when I was a kid? Is there any one thing? Any one practice? The answer is yes: I make time for “discovery.”
A few years ago, I took off to Ireland for my own personal writing retreat. It was a spur-of-the-moment trip. Next thing I knew, there I was, alone in a tiny cottage on the southwest Irish coast with my pads and pens, figuring out how to light a turf fire on a rainy, chilly autumn night. My Irish sojourn wasn’t a getaway to meet a tight deadline, and it wasn’t a vacation. It was three weeks I set aside for creative discovery—for consciously and intentionally standing back from producing, doing, inventing, measuring, making things happen. It was time away from the usual walls: page counts, word counts, hours-at-writing counts. It was time away from the external lures and pressures of publishing, platforms, website updates, reviews, Facebook, Twitter, wandering on the internet.
My cottage made setting these boundaries for myself easier: it had no wifi and only limited (and expensive!) “data roaming” access. I had to walk into the village to get on the internet. The five-hour time difference between Ireland and the East Coast also worked in my favor. There’s magic in being fully present in the moment, whether it’s on the page at hand, or whether it’s walking in the Irish hills, listening to sheep baaing in a green field or watching a rainbow arc over the bay.
Those three weeks in Ireland crystalized for me just how important discovery is in my creative life. I have always given myself time away from “producing” and “doing,” whether it’s an afternoon walk, an internet blackout, not counting words and pages—or another getaway to an Irish cottage. Discovery is what sharpens, greases and fires up our creative gears, our senses, our powers of observation, our openness, even our trust in whatever drove us to write in the first place. For me, it’s the foundation of creativity, and it’s essential to the joy of writing.”
Enjoy your day!
I’m cleaning my office (Saturday!) and decided to change my desktop photo. Sometimes I keep my desktop blank to eliminate any distractions, but most of the time I enjoy a reminder of places I love. I tend to type in ‘full screen’ mode with a black background, so the photo only shows up when I’m doing other things.
Think I’ll go with the one of the lake we hiked along in Killarney, a popular route for good reason! Our daughter, son-in-law and their two little ones joined us. It’s a great memory as we dive into the New England winter.
But I love the spring flowers, too.
Have a great weekend, everyone!
We love our foggy, misty Maine days and got to experience a couple on our recent trip to Acadia National Park. We hiked along the coast past famous Thunder Hole. So beautiful! I never know what ideas might start percolating on such walks.
Joe and I recently visited Acadia National Park in Maine. We’ve hiked there many times but never in autumn. So beautiful! More inspiration for my Sharpe & Donovan series.
We’re celebrating here on our hilltop in Vermont. It’s always so exciting to have a new book hit the shelves, so to speak. In HARBOR ISLAND, FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan are back in Boston after several weeks in Ireland that started out with a romantic getaway and ended with…well, trouble. That trouble follows them home when Emma discovers the body of a woman on a small island in Boston Harbor. In the woman’s hand is a Celtic stone cross, the signature of an elusive thief the FBI and the Sharpes have been chasing for a decade.
While Emma and Colin search for answers in Boston and Maine, their boss, Matt Yankowski, is in Dublin looking for information on the thief and dealing with his missing, and estranged, wife, Lucy. My husband and I are just back from an extended trip to England and Ireland for research, writing, hiking and the occasional ‘taoscan’ of whiskey. We spent most of our time on the southwest Irish coast (where Emma and Colin sneaked away to a cottage owned by Irish priest Finian Bracken!), but we spent a few days in lively Dublin. I’ve mentioned the “doors of Dublin.”
The best part of our trip, though, was introducing little Leo and Oona to Ireland. Here’s a picture of Oona with me at low tide. Life doesn’t get any better!
I hope you enjoy HARBOR ISLAND and these last days of summer. Hard to believe we’re starting to see red leaves on some of the trees…
Last week, Joe and I spent a few days in London. We’d never been to London in July. It was as bustling as ever! We enjoyed the midsummer flowers in the “royal” parks and countless Mayfair window boxes. I snapped these shots on several of our walks.
I thought of Alexandra Rankin Hunt, the heroine of “Christmas at Carriage Hill,” my upcoming Swift River Valley e-novella. Alexandra, an British fashion designer, would appreciate a lovely window box, but she’s lately given up London for life in the bucolic Cotswolds. She’s designed the bride and bridesmaids’ dresses for the Christmas Eve wedding of Olivia Frost and Dylan McCaffrey (Alexandra’s newly discovered cousin) in little Knights Bridge, Massachusetts.
Of course, nothing goes quite as Alexandra planned when she heads to New England, especially when a certain RAF pilot gets himself invited to the wedding!
I hope you’re enjoying your summer, wherever you are.
What a great day this was in mid-April when we visited Hidcote Gardens in the rolling hills of the English Cotswolds. How to inspire a writer!
We’re still deep in snow on our hilltop in Vermont. Waiting for March to turn into a lamb! Meanwhile here’s a photo I took last year on a sunny day on the south Irish coast, part of the “cliff walk” in Ardmore. So peaceful…sigh.
Today is “pub day” for CIDER BROOK, and I’m guest-blogging on the Barnes & Noble NOOK blog on the beautiful setting for my Swift River Valley series and its fictional Knights Bridge.
I took these photos on an autumn walk in the Quabbin woods. Such a beautiful place! It’s not far from my family homestead and the setting of CIDER BROOK, which goes on sale a week from tomorrow! Knights Bridge is a fictional town located on the edge of this incredible reservoir, formed when four small towns were cleared out and dams built to hold back three branches of the Swift River and Beaver Brook. Millions of people have pure, clear drinking water thanks to Quabbin.
How could I resist a very contemporary story about a pirate who might have buried treasure here 300 years ago?