Thursday, November 6, 2014

When the nest empties and the career (the one with the steady paycheck) get’s scrapbooked, some of us boomers pull a latent passion for writing out of the drawer and take it with us everywhere we travel.

Some months I write at a large oak desk in my home office in the lower montane forest of the Sierra Nevadas. Just outside my window, gray squirrel and woodpeckers play with their food in a massive black oak tree, and deer and wild turkeys, fox and the occasional black bear pick their way through oak leaves and pine needles on the path that leads to a dry creek below our property.

My writing studio in the deser
Other months, I retreat to a small place in the desert where my writing studio is the central feature of house. Open and airy, I can look across the living room through a window that frames a desert landscape. Mesquite trees provide shade, rosemary bushes shelter cottontail bunnies from coyotes who hope to do lunch on our patio, and Gambel’s quail run circles around golden barrel, cholla and prickly pear cactus.

Other times, I’m at our daughter’s island home off the coast of Seattle. I set myself up to write in her dining room, where I feel quite at home. The Japanese styled furniture in this serene space used to decorate my mother’s house. A grandchild might wander in and sit down at the Kimball console piano to practice, the very one my mother played when she accompanied young dancers in my grandmother’s ballet and tap studio.

But no matter where I write, the challenge is always the same. I try to write early in the day, when my energy is highest. I try to summon the focus it takes to lose myself in my story. I try to put in the hours to produce the desired word count. I try. I don’t always succeed.

If I stay on the balance beam and work toward health and well being, my days will include morning quiet time, an exercise class tucked somewhere in my schedule, and some meaningful time spent with family and friends. A spiritual insight that informs my work, a yoga class that unkinks my neck and shoulders from writer’s hunch, a phone call from one of the kids, a movie date with my husband, or an evening with addition to 1,000 words, of course...and my day is pretty perfect. It is a difficult balance to maintain. Too many internet rabbit holes; too much time spent sorting and managing stuff (closets, excel spreadsheets, social media, good intentions); too early a move to the sofa and the TV; I lose my footing.

On the road
These days, home is a highway between the many lives I lead. Writing doesn’t take up much space in my suitcase. A laptop and a notebook, that’s all; the rest is in my head and my heart. What earns me a heavy baggage charge is the bulging distractions.

Headlines vie for my attention with National Inquirer tactics: “What This Woman Did Had Me Sobbing for Days!” Makes me feel like the monkey triplets; don’t want to see it, hear it, or repeat it in a tweet. Invitations to try this, learn that, download, upgrade, or buy proliferate faster than I can hit delete. The cumulative effect weighs heavy.

I imagine we would all like more time to read deeply or write breakthrough prose. I love that these are portable activities. I’m looking for ways to unpack the detractors from the experience I truly desire.
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Sydney Avey lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Yosemite, California, and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a lifetime of experience writing news for non profits and corporations. Her work has appeared in Epiphany, Foliate Oak, Forge, American Athenaeum, and Unstrung (published by Blue Guitar Magazine) and Ruminate. She has studied at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Sydney is the author
of two novels, The Sheep Walker’s Daughter and The Lyre and the Lambs.  She blogs at on topics related to loven and mystery, family relationships, conflicts between generations, and how faith functions in real life.


Make sure to stop by tomorrow, when you can enter to win a free copy of The Lyre and the Lambs!


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