Is Your Homework Done?

A Bonsai Maple Forest

I used to get asked that question by my parents—a lot.  Now I ask it of myself, especially at times like now when I have several writing projects that are crying out for me to get one done so I can move onto the next.

There’s Wolf’s Soul, the sequel to July’s new release, Wolf’s Search.  There’s the new Star Kingdom book with David Weber, for which I signed contracts a couple weeks ago.  There are various other projects, including a short story that started hopping up and down after a recent exchange of e-mails with Alan Robson, my former Thursday Tangents collaborator.

Here’s the problem.  And the big secret. Back in school, getting your homework done before goofing off was almost certainly productive behavior.  However, when you’re a writer like me there are times that staring at a screen or keyboard or pad of paper or whatever is precisely the worst way to get your creative juices flowing.

The same can be true of any profession that calls for an element of right brain thinking, or even non-thinking.  There’s a value to daydreaming, staring at the wall, doing a craft project, or any number of things that look like goofing off to someone on the outside.

Many years ago, I wandered on about how walking away from whatever you’re working on can actually be the best thing for those of us who draw upon our subconscious to get our work done.  Inspiration comes from the quiet corners of the mind, and sometimes the Muse doesn’t answer on demand.

So, why is there a picture of a bonsai at the start of this Wandering?  Two reasons.  One was that this weekend Jim and I went to Aki Matsuri, the Japanese Autumn Festival, and this was a display we really enjoyed.

The other is that bonsai are a good metaphor for a creative life that looks, from the outside, like what it isn’t.  Bonsai look like lovely, natural forests in miniature, but actually they are the result of a lot of crimping, cramping, cutting, and restricting.

For me, my creative life doesn’t work that way.  Mine is more like my yard which, right now, is overwhelmed with wild asters, going every which way.  Yesterday I sat in the yard and stared at them.  And then my Muse started whispering in my ear…

Wild Asters And Other Aspects Of My Yard

5 Responses to “Is Your Homework Done?”

  1. the6thjm Says:

    I’ve always thought of bonsai as lovely, until recently.

    Then I really got to understand how the plants were forced to grow into those shapes and the metaphors about growing up overwhelmed me. Unruly, wild children crimped, cramped, and restricted until they met the standards of form and beauty set by society. (Cutting, too, but that road leads to true horrors, so we’ll ignore it for now.)

    Now, I look at bonsai and wonder what it could have been had someone not imposed their will upon it.

    I’m getting old.

    • janelindskold Says:

      There’s a sort of bonsai done with fast-growing herbs that has an appeal. Those actually benefit from pruning. But, yeah. I had a similar reaction when I learned what went into bonsai trees. I look, but I will not do.

  2. King Ben's Grandma Says:

    You cant hug a bonsai tree and they probably need hugs. You definitely cant force creativity. I love the picture of your wild flowers, with the giraffe in the background. That’s inspiring.

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