The creative life is a roller coaster. Well, I suppose all of life is a roller coaster, unless you're living in a cave high up a mountain. Then it would be just cold.
And talking of cold, I've had a nasty cough lately and am spending more time than usual at home, wrapped in a lovely wool shawl. I bought the shawl in December 1974 from a street vendor in Mexico City. That probably seems like many years ago to you young folk, but to me it seems like the day before yesterday. Whenever I wear this shawl I wonder if the woman who sold it to me eventually made enough money to stop selling things on the street. Was she able to send her children to school? Did they go on to university? I hope so. The shawl cost me $20 then. In fact I bought two shawls, one for me and one for a friend. Nowadays, in Vancouver, shawls like this would probably cost about $250 apiece. The shawl was made with great skill and the woman who made it deserved to be paid more money than she was asking, and more than I could afford.
So I wear this shawl as I sit at the computer in my office, or when I read my murder mystery in the window seat. I did mention, did I not, that I call my new house Drafty Corners Cottage? You see, I can clearly recall what I was doing in Mexico City in 1974, but I can't remember most of my past blogs. I'm not saying everyone has this problem when they get older, but obviously I do! So, because it's been windy lately, I wear the shawl mainly to stay warm.
Maybe I also wear this shawl to remind myself of the vagaries of the creative life. Whether you weave shawls for so many hours a day that your fingers are callused, and tourists examine your wares without a clue as to how much trouble went into the making of them, or whether you weave stories in a lovable but drafty house, so that publishers can examine your wares without a clue as to how much blood, sweat and tears went into the writing, there is still the compulsion to create - regardless of the financial rewards or lack of. Though, of course, financial rewards are more than welcome. They pay the mortgage and buy the groceries. Weavers have to weave and writers have to write, just as singers have to sing and doctors have to heal. Sometimes there is financial gain, often there is none.
So back to the roller coaster. Up it goes: My musical appears to be a 'go,' though I'm girding my loins for pages of re-writing, and a lot of hard work. There's no money in this, just the thrill of perhaps seeing something I wrote performed by talented people who love to perform. Auditions are in May.
Down it goes: My beloved story 'Harold the Hero' is still much loved by publishers - but not enough for them to publish it (or 'him'). I'm expanding the story, against the odds of 'him' ever being accepted, because I love Harold and the story in which I've placed him. He's wickedly funny and there's just not enough funny these days. Publishers don't always accept that children - some children - are like some adults. They have a sharp, sometimes gritty, sense of humour.
Up goes the roller coaster again: I've been mentoring a rather brilliant and creative grade ten student. Her project is to write and illustrate a picture book. At first she had a rather good idea for a story, but after a while it seemed as if it would be better as a chapter book or early reader. What to do? Cut it down, make lots of changes? I didn't want to discourage her, because I know only too well that life is full of discouragement. Then, all by herself, she came up with another idea. An idea so simple and yet so perfect. The kind of simple idea that we all too frequently dismiss, because we don't always recognize genius, even in ourselves. But it has all the makings of a wonderful book. And she's lucky to be a talented artist, so she can illustrate it. Whilst the first story was becoming very wordy and a bit forced, this one will - we hope - be a perfect blend of spare text and funny illustrations. I have no doubt she'll eventually get it to a stage where she can send it to a publisher. After she'd come up with the new idea, all it took to get things on track was a bit of brainstorming. (My husband thinks that she should be mentoring me!)
So I'll end with an upturn of the roller coaster, and after some hot tea I'll get back to 'Harold the Hero,' because his story must be told, and who knows, one day you might be reading it. May all our roller coasters swoop upwards.*
*And may the wind stop rattling the windows of Drafty Corners Cottage.
p.s If Cindy Heinrichs (gifted editor, writer, teacher and friend) is reading this, tooth comb to hand, I checked the dictionary, and it can be spelled 'callus' or 'callous.'