On June 7th, a new YA fantasy trilogy began with the release of Catherine Egan's Julia Vanishes. It looks to be a promising read! I am honored to have a guest post with the author today!
Maybe it’s a Tree
I first heard the expression “filling the well” – consuming art to fill your own creative reservoirs so they don’t run dry – in an interview with Joss Whedon a few years ago. He was talking about working on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the inspiration for Firefly. He said: “My vacation from Buffy was… two weeks every year, and in that vacation I read, in 14 days, 10 books, my wife and I saw like nine plays, and that’s all we did.”
I love that idea and of course it’s true that art will set your mind alight and feed your creative drive. But when I read that interview, my own life was a far cry from going to the theater or wandering through art galleries. I still read books, but often fell asleep mid-sentence. My days were a blur of diaper changes, carefully prepared meals tossed on the floor (and in my hair), and quelling tantrums at the grocery store. “Filling the well,” it seemed to me, required time and, in some cases, money, neither of which I had.
And yet I was writing – desperately, frantically writing, surrounded by piles of dirty laundry and dirty dishes and just, well, dirt, while little boys crashed around the apartment pretending to be dinosaurs. I fact, I was writing far more consistently than I had during the years when my life was full of adventure and the avid consumption of art.
One of my favorite poets, Lucille Clifton, was asked once why her poems were so short. Her answer: “I have six children, and a memory that can hold about twenty lines until the end of the day.” I love that so much. Her poems are short – and razor sharp, luminous, full of the messiness of life. Amid the busy-ness of living and raising children and losing a husband and illness, she wrote poems that reflected everything her days were full of as well as the wider world’s ugliness and sometime beauty.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of imagining that the boring bits of life, the frustrations of the day, the things that are just necessary, are a distraction from writing, even depleting your inner well. But my experience says otherwise.
If you can spend the time (and money) filling the well, that’s great. But sometimes life is hard and busy, and that doesn’t mean your well will run dry. Maybe it’s a tree, not a well, and if the roots go deep enough the world will give you everything you need. This tree can feed on love and joy, but the wonder of it is that it is fed also by regret and disappointment and failure, the petty feelings and the stupid fight you had about money, the flat tire, the French press in pieces on the floor, the overflowing toilet, your own restlessness that chafes and chafes and won’t allow you any peace. I wouldn’t call it fodder, because it isn’t that, exactly – it’s life – but then what else are we writing about?
I strongly suggest you all go check out Julia Vanishes!