Rituals of beginning, 2
The hope of spring

Rituals of beginning, 3

Woodland paths 1

"I never know quite what has gone on in my subconscious in the night. I dream vividly, and all kinds of things happen; by morning they have fallen below the threshold again. But I like to feel that whatever takes place becomes active in some way in what I do at the typewriter. In other words, I believe that a human being's life is a whole, and that he lives the full twenty-four hours. And if he is a writer or an artist, what happens during the night feeds back, in some way, into what he does consciously during the day....Part of the pleasure of writing, as well as the pain, is involved in pouring into that thing which is being created what he cannot understand, cannot say, cannot deal with or cannot even admit in any other way."  - Ralph Ellison

Woodland paths 2

"When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind."  - Haruki Murakami

Woodland paths 3

"I'm an afternoon writer. I draw sustenance from my strange nocturnal dreams. My workroom is on the second floor of an old Mississippi house. I work on an enormous oak table that I had especially built. Friends are always surprised that my table is relatively well-organized. I gaze out the window a lot, down onto undulating Southern terrain leading to Purple Crane Creek, which overflows in rains.

"My cat, Spit McGee, who has one brown eye and one blue and is named after a swamp boy in a children's book I once wrote, often jumps on my table and gets into my way, usually sprawling languidly on my manuscript. I write in longhand, and he quizzically looks down on my words. What is the old fool doing now? he seems to be asking. I welcome these intrusions when I'm starting a new book, because the book takes a little time to unfold. Once it does, I make Spit McGee sit on the floor." - Willie Morris

Woodland paths 4

"I’ve written everywhere. I wrote a novella The Womanizer on a plane coming back from Paris. I’ve written in hotel rooms in Milan and Great Falls. I wrote a screenplay in the Chateau Marmont. I’ve worked in fifty rented houses, in friends’ apartments. I like that, actually. It’s a challenge to go into someplace that’s not yours, and let the fact that you’re doing important work there be the accommodating force. I don’t think I could stay in one house continuously. I’m not contemplative enough, not interior enough, and that’s another way of saying I’m probably not smart enough. I need a lot of external stimulation bulleting into my life. I’m not talking about exhilaration or thrill, I just want new sounds coming into my ears."  - Richard Ford

Woodland paths 5

"You write by sitting down and writing. There's no particular time or place -- you suit yourself, your nature. How one works, assuming he's disciplined, doesn't matter. If he or she is not disciplined no sympathetic magic will help. The trick is to make time -- not steal it -- and produce the fiction. If the stories come, if you get them written, you're on the right track. Eventually everyone learns his or her best way. The real mystery to crack is you."  - Bernard Malamud

Woodland paths 6


Such beautiful and evocative photographs. I love taking morning walks with you and Tilly. I hope your flu is finally easing. If it's the same one going around Wiltshire, it seems to take weeks and weeks to get over.... Be well.

'Part of the pleasure of writing, as well as the pain, is involved in pouring into that thing which is being created what he cannot understand, cannot say, cannot deal with or cannot even admit in any other way.' - Ralph Ellison

Exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you.

Post script:

And I'm very glad to hear from another afternoon writer! My muse never makes an appearance before noon.

i've so enjoyed reading these posts...and the lovely conversations and reflections that appear in the comments below them.

i am utterly a creature of habit...a pre-dawn riser and writer..writing (accompanied by plenty of tea!) is the thing that wakes up my brain cells...and i am most irritated by any interruption of my early morning routines.

i like to think it is a sort of magic, this conjuring of words and images from the thresholds...the attempt, sometimes (often) foiled, to bring them across the veil.

once again, i sink into a swoon at the sight of your photos...i'm quite sure i can hear that stream trickling..


I sometimes hold self-judgement that I don't get up before dawn and begin... reading Murakami's quote, I started to go there, but I know the truth is that we all have different needs and strategies for crossing the threshold to our work. I'm getting work done, and that is what is important. I loved this particular collection of quotes, and the lovely walk with Tilly.

I just wanted to say that I can see how your morning ritual walks with Tilly generate so many photos. After a while, pictures of trees and hills are just trees and hills to me, one pretty much like another, and if you've seen one then you've seen them all. Add a black dog and every photo is its own story, different from every photo before it and every possible photo after it.

I think writing can be like that. We use the same individual words (trees and hills) as everyone else ... over and over ... but it's the black dog of our muse/experience/characters which turns those words into a story different from anyone else's story and different from any other story we've written before or will someday write.

What I Need to Write

I tell them I need a keyboard,
a laptop, a cup of tea,
birdsong, morning light.
I say I need quiet, a long walk,
dog on the leash or off.
I insist I need a banana,
an apple, a Muse, or daemon.
I talk about the coolness of the day,
the sweetness of a baby's breath,
a kiss from my sweetheart,
the full moon.
I lie.

It is what I do best, lying,
making up stuff, creating a fiction
of myself as writer.
In the end, it is all I really need.

©2013 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

I love this. It loops to surprise and reading it over and over; And so much in a liilte

Here's a favourite quote from Bailey Browne (age 11) who asked Willie Morris to write "My Cat Spit McGee" , "Cats have taught me to look cute, act sweet, persist & get louder and if all else fails bring matters into your own teeth."
must say personally I am getting a bit old to look cute or act sweet but know a lot about persistence & taking matters into my own teeth these days (no one else is going to do it for me!)

Thanks, Phyllis. It's actually the truth couched in yet another lie!


Yeah--with you on that, Mo!

(Though am saving out "adorable" to the very end.)


Mo, I love that story. (And I'm going to remember that phrase: bringing matters into one's own teeth.)

Here's one of mine:

Years ago in Tucson, I had a friend who was a single-dad, and I occasionally picked his son up from school (he was about 8 at the time) when his dad was unable to do so. (This earned the boy a lot of Cool Points with his friends because I drove a motorcycle at the time.) One day we stopped off for a snack on the way home, and we had a conversation I'll never forget. He wanted to know if I believed in in re-incarnation, and I told him I found the idea very interesting, but neither believed nor disbelieved it, as I had no idea what happens to us after death. Then I asked him what he thought about it.

"Oh, I absolutely believe it," he told me.

I was curious about his conviction, and asked him why.

"Because I remember what I was the last time. It wasn't all that long ago," he said in the casual way of children, assuming he was merely stating the obvious and his attention now drifting to other things. But I wasn't ready to let go of this yet.

"Really? So what were you?" I wanted to know.

Then he suddenly got very serious, and told me, "An animal. Something small. I don't know exactly what kind. I just remember what it feels like to be covered in fur, and dig, and hunt for food. That's all. But you know, Terri, even now, if I get scared or feel cornered, I bite."

I'm like you, I feel distinctly put out if my early morning routine is interrupted. Getting up very early insures that this rarely happens. For me it goes back to childhood, living in a variety of households where there were always lots of other people, and the pre-dawn hours being the one time I had to myself.

I agree. The point is to find which parts of the day work best for you (I know plenty of productive writers and artists for whom it's definitely NOT the morning), and, when possible, working with rather than against your own natural rhythms. Granted, jobs and children and other commitments don't always allow for this, but it's still good, I think, to have a sense of when you work best, and to allow for the fact that the work might be a bit slower if it needs to be done at a less-than-optimal time. I'm hopeless after about 5 o'clock, for example -- like a wind-up toy that starts out briskly in the morning and gets a little slower with each hour that passes. And I know people who are entirely the opposite....

What a lovely comparison!

So very true, Jane. It's all very well and good to talk about optimal working conditions, but when it comes right down to it, we should and do work anywhere we need to.

Thank you, Cynthia. I'm on the tail end of it now -- dead tired and fuddle-brained by mid-day, but not actively feverish anymore, thank heavens. (Poor Howard, who is a week behind me, is still quite sick.) It is definitely a long-lasting one; other people in the village have taken four to six weeks to get over it. I hope your family has managed to avoid it!

Since my muse often disappears in the afternoon, perhaps your house is where she's going....

Yesterday I had nothing to add to this wonderful thread, but I'm back on Friday to say why...first--reacting to Mo's "bringing matters into one's own teeth", because I'm also too old for cute, and also because teeth are metaphorical for me since mine are the plastic replacement variety......That said...the story of the 10th and llth of April: I've committed to read in a Beat Poetry series for a second time (read one beat and one's own related poem)...last time I wrote 'Kerouac And The Boys", and read two of his as well. This time it's not any one Beat Poet but the subject of "Peace". I decided to find a lesser known woman Beat and, after some research, lighted on Barbara Moraff, who Kerouac said was "One of the best girl poets"...she knew them all and, from what I gleaned, evolved along a fascinating path from then to now. But I only found three on line poems. Lots of books for sale, but my cash is at zero. So I became obsessed with contacting her, and spent the better part of 20 hours corresponding back and forth, first with a cousin in Vermont, then through two Editors and a friend of one of them, until finally one came up with a phone number late in the day on the 10th. At noon on the 11th we had a wonderful, long conversation, she pointed to the inaccuracies of some postings about her and we found we had a good deal in common. My becoming obsessed with finding her is an example both of "bringing matters into one's own teeth", and following the unknown impulse to it's conclusion. Now, I have all I need to write my own poem, a new spiritual friend, and a month for the development of the work I'll write wherever I happen to be till it's ready to perform on May 20th at the Yippie Cafe. Sometimes a hunch leads nowhere and one has to circle back to the beginning, sometimes a sudden glade appears in the midst of the dark forest and light pours in.

What brilliant stories, this one and Mo's. Kids are remarkable - as I'm often reminded by my sons and their friends.

How wonderful, Michelle! Good luck with your poem and reading.

I love that, too. The black dog is what we all look for.

First, imagining you on a motorcycle, is like an image of the fairy queen and her gang.

Now, when I read about the little boy, I remember when my now head injured son was
four, he announced he had once been a railroad man, and he hadn't been very nice. He was always philosophical and even though compromised about mundane facts, like what he
had for breakfast or whether or not he had attended day care and what they did, he seems
illuminated and attracts people who see that.

love the trail of this tale!

A writer at the other end of the day here...
I do my best work after midnight. The morning's too full of the world waking up, noisy and distracting.
There's something magical about the night, quiet as a city under heavy snow, when the world falls asleep and leaves the peace and solitude to me.
All the day's chores are tidied away, all the diversions stilled; with quiet music as a compass I'll head deep into the small hours, alone, to bring back stories.
Thank you for this wonderful series of posts, Terri. You've given me a lot to think about!

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