Tag: order

In a Rut vs Freedom

rut vs freedomRoutine.

To some that word means “rut” to others, “freedom.” I fall into the latter category.

For weeks I’ve been bumbling along without a routine. Words haven’t gotten on the page, because I’m distracted with one self-made crisis after another. Meals are pitiful, and onerous because I didn’t get to the grocery store. More garments lie in the laundry hamper than hang in the closets.

What’s worse, all that unorganized time isn’t joyful. I pick up a book to read, then put it down because I have a nagging sense that I should be doing “something.” Knitting makes me cross, because it’s wasting time. Everything feels off kilter.

Without a routine, my life feels out of control and I am cranky, really cranky. Maybe that is the reason interviewers are constantly asking writers about their routine. Instinctively, they know that a productive life needs organization.

The light dawned for me as I turned over the calendar to February. One month of 2020 gone and I was a mess. Something had to change.

A trip to the stationery story to procure a new ledger. A few concentrated hours at the desk to close out the books on 2019 and start a fresh new page for 2020. I do like a new notebook. All those clean pages inviting me to fill them with useful words or beautiful words, or orderly words.  I feel my spirits rising along with the little red tick marks on those clean pages.

That sense of order is why routine equates to freedom for me. When I have a list of “to do” I can check off the tasks as they are completed. This gives me a sense of accomplishment and gives me permission to enjoy my free time. Knowing the fridge is full of food, the car has gas, the bills are paid and my WIP is moving forward, I’m released from the rut of discontent and set free to pursue my passions.

My crankiness has taken wings and flown away. My house is in order. My mind is free of distraction.  It has been a good week.

Writerly Kindness Update

Our writers group, VIRA had an unexpected glitch for our September conference, when the two planned speakers cancelled. Panic ensued. Timetables are already set. I contacted Laurie Schnebly Campbell and she agreed to come on our preferred dates. She offered a great choice of workshops and she figured out the best flights — then booked them herself. She never once remarked on the short notice. I call that an extreme example of writerly kindness to a group of authors in distress. Thank you Laurie.

If you have a story of writerly kindness please share. I hope to have a considerable collection of examples by the end of the year. Contributors are entered in a draw for my latest “Prospect” book, available by the end of the year.


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The Not-So-Wild West

Writing historical fiction requires lots and lots of research. Since I love history, research is actually a treat and not a chore. However, writing about the Canadian West in the nineteenth century presents some unique challenges. If I do research under “Victorian,” I’ll get lots of references to Victorian England. If I try “Western” I’ll get reams of information on the American West. Thanks to Hollywood, most people perceive “Western” from the American perspective, i.e. lawlessness, range wars, famous outlaws, dangerous Indians. Those qualities make great fiction, but they do not hold true for the Canadian west. Oh, we had our share of criminals, but the westward expansion of white settlement in this country followed a different pattern that our southern neighbours. In Canada, the law and government, preceded the settlers.
The fur trade that brought the first whites into the hinterland of British North America was governed by the Hudson’s Bay Company. These “gentlemen adventurers” were obsessive record keepers. They established forts, wages, trade routes, and their own form of law and order. Factors and clerks and agents brought with them the same standards of conduct that held sway in London, England. There were no glittering salons or evening parties, but respect for order and allegiance to the Queen were part of their make-up.
Early attempts at settlement, such as the Red River Colony  were organized and controlled by the Hudson’s Bay Company and interested parties in England.  Although the Selkirk experiment failed, the method or organization was ingrained in the Canadian landscape.
When the gold rush brought the next wave of immigrants to what is now British Columbia, there was already a functioning government in place. Sir James Douglas, chief factor for the HBC and Governor of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, took steps to prevent an American takeover of British territory there. He lobbied the British crown and used a garrison of soldiers and engineers to establish British sovereignty and the rule of law throughout the territory. Miners expecting a repeat of the California experience, found instead a court system staffed by itinerant judges, a police corps and a tax man waiting for them.
      Barkerville, popularly viewed as a rough and tumble mining camp filled with saloons and brothels, quickly became a civilized town with all of the amenities. Gold was discovered in 1862, by 1863 the miners had built a hospital and raised the money to run it. Within a few years there were seven doctors practicing there. The Roman Catholic church was already established a few miles down stream in Richfield. By 1863 the Anglicans and Methodists had built churches, joined by the Presbyterians in 1864.
Also in 1864, a Library was established with 70 books brought to the town by its first librarian, Miss Florence Wilson. In the next few years Governor Seymour donated 100’s more books. There were evening classes for the miners to study Greek and Latin and History and English and band and chess among other subjects. Music was highly prized. Miners formed choirs within the community and sponsored visiting troupes from Victoria, the U.S. and Europe. There was a Debating Club, Glee Club, Masonic Lodge, Cariboo Benevolent Society and a Literary Society, as well as a Miners Association that acted like a municipal government.
This is not the popular image of a gold rush town, but it is an historically accurate one. As an author I see it as my responsibility to present historical truth in an entertaining, yet accurate manner.  Writing about the Canadian West means I have to overcome certain stereotypes in the reader’s mind, but that means I get to talk about a place and time that fascinates me.  As a commenter on this page once said, “what fun!”

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