Digging Deeper, in Life and Art

Mountains and Clouds in January

One of the most magical years of my life was spent living on a farm in rural Southwest Virginia. I’d rise in the morning and, before it was too hot, work in the large garden I tended. Afterward I’d sit on the porch, read poetry, work on my master’s thesis, write poetry—I even tried my hand at making jewelry.

It was a creative time in my life, one full of possibilities. Surrounded by mountains and forest, with the New River just down the hill, I was connected to nature and spirit in a way I hadn’t been in a very long time.

Though life has since moved me into town, I still strive to remain close to nature. The photo above is from Monday’s afternoon walk with my dog Leo. Though I live in a townhouse, I’m blessed to have a park filled with walking trails just steps from my backdoor, and we walk there daily.

During Monday’s walk, Leo and I were walking the hills. I paused to admire the way the clouds hung close to the brow of the mountains. I breathed in cool air, aware that cold air was soon to follow, perhaps bringing with it a dusting of snow.

This is digging deep. It’s savoring these precious everyday moments. It’s listening to the flow of things and being present. It is only when we’re connected to the flow that we can live both simply and creatively.

I returned home, where I curled up with a cup of tea and my laptop and put the finishing touches on my novella. It is officially query-ready. I’m still waiting for some feedback on my synopsis, and once that’s revised, I will be sending Oak-Bound off to editors, in hopes of finding a home for a story that began whispering to me five years ago. I wasn’t ready to tell it then, but last summer, I realized it was time.

I’ve done several drafts, each time listening intently to my characters and their reactions. Each time letting my world unfold on the page, helping the story to shine.

This is the creative process. This is why revision is so vital. Too often I’ve dreaded revision, but when I think of it not as the dreaded chore of revising but instead as the magic of digging deeper, it becomes less of a chore and more of an adventure.

With any luck, 2018 will be a year of digging deeper into my life and my art. On the home front, I’m paring away the excess, parting with objects that no longer serve me to create the sort of home I’ve always wanted: cozy, soothing, tidy—with a touch whimsy and a hint of magic. On the writing front, I’m listening intently to my stories, allowing them to unfold in their own way, not forcing them into prescribed criteria but instead letting them happen organically.

I’m a firm believer that we must envision the life we want and then find ways, slowly but surely, to bring that vision into being. What’s that saying? That goals are dreams with deadlines? Sure, maybe sometimes. But I think, perhaps, that goals are dreams made tangible. It’s not so much that we need a deadline (although sometimes, for us writers, that helps) as it is that we need a way to help dreams take root and find form.

Digging deeper allows us to pare away the excess to find the authenticity that lies beneath. Too often, our lives are buried under the stuff we own, the trappings we carry that no longer serve us. To dig deeper in our lives, we must work toward a vision of what we truly want to make of our “one wild and precious life.” To dig deeper in our storytelling, we must listen to our characters, make them and their worlds come to life.

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from my newly completed novella, Oak-Bound.

He landed hard against cold, damp earth. The smells of rich, fertile soil mixed with moss and mushrooms tickled his nose.

The light was diffused gray here—wherever here was. Tendrils of silvery-white mist snaked along the ground as though they were living, sentient things. One began to crawl up his leg, wrapping him like a boa constrictor. Nick took a few quick steps back.

What are you? The mist seemed to whisper in a thick, raspy voice.

He is not from here, another, higher voice hissed.

Human? The first voice.

“Yes,” Nick answered, the single word laced with uncertainty.

Ah. Welcome to The Crossroads.

“The Crossroads?” He furrowed his brow. “The place between life and death?”

High-pitched laughter met his ear.

This place is so much more. Here the roots of every tree, every plant, the energy of every living thing weave together to create a tapestry of life. The dead pass through here on occasion, but this place is not death, young one. Not at all.

Something inside Nick relaxed, a coil of fear inside his belly easing slightly. Not for himself, but for Cassie. He still had time.

What about you? How are you digging deeper into life and creativity? I’d love to hear from you!

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Fantasy & paranormal romance author. Witch. Tarot reader. Possibly a woodland sprite. Debut release TANGLED ROOTS now available. Magic awaits at www.denisedyoungbooks.com.

8 thoughts on “Digging Deeper, in Life and Art

  1. Hi Denise,
    I like your writing. Creative writing is one of my favourite activities, Its’ so rewarding to share ideas in a context that you can control. There is something really special about it.
    You asked the question “are you digging deeper into life and creativity?” Yes, this year I’m blogging my families venture into sustainability. It’s a slow and rewarding life but in another way it’s also sort of busy because, believe it or not, it takes a lot of time to produce your own food.
    All the best with your story.

    1. Thanks, Cathie!

      Yes, it takes a lot of work to grow your own food. The year I lived on the farm taught me a lot about this. The first time I planted I lost almost everything to a devastating hail storm and had to replant. The food we did succeed in growing (mostly squash and some watermelon) was delicious, though, and I hope to one day have a garden again.

  2. Digging deeper is something I struggle doing. And my stories suffer because I don’t try and dig past the shallow. For years, I’ve struggled with this. Trying to find deeper meaning into my life and my writing. It’s like I’ve become content with just living day to day, doing what I’m supposed to do, and that’s it. But I get that life doesn’t always work like that. There are so many people who wish they had what I have. It comes down to gratitude for me. Or lack of, in my case. And that has trickled down to my writing. It’s like I don’t know how to drill past the hard shell of contentment. It’s like I’m afraid of what I’ll find. But I need to embrace the things that scare me and write about them. Maybe then, I can write the stories I want. Stories that have a deep, personal connection to my life.

    1. Have you read Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg? I think it might be helpful. I read it back in grad school and honestly, it’s getting close to time for a reread. That one really jump-started my writing and helped me dig deep.

      For me, it’s a process, a paring away of excess. In my storytelling, it’s a paring away of everything that’s not the story. In my life, it’s a letting go of anything that doesn’t serve me, whether it’s a hobby I’ve outgrown or a kitchen gadget I no longer use. It is, I am learning, more of a process than a destination. Good luck!

      1. I have Writing Down the Bones. And I have Wild Mind. I think it is time I reread the book, too.

  3. What a lovely image. We have a grand view (slightly similar) that I can see when I go for a walk (though it’s much colder here… and windy! at the moment than it looks like in your photo). It’d be nice if it were a park trail….

    I love your snippet. Definitely gets the questions flowing… Who is Cassie, how did he arrive at the Crossroads, etc?

    You should add this to our WIPpet linky: http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=355404

    1. Thanks, Eden. I am incredibly fortunate to have such a beautiful view so close to my home–even more fortunate that it is part of a town park, and open for all of us to see. Our weather has gone back and forth from spitting snow and howling wind to cool and cloudy this week–typical winter here in Virginia. Still, it’s better than the single digit temperatures we had at the beginning of the year.

      I’m glad you liked the snippet. It can be tough to choose an excerpt that will resonate with people unfamiliar with the overall plot. Thank you!

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