Now about gathering, here is what I mean.
My son Adam, his wife Betsy, and their little children Alison and David live in Minneapolis. When I travel there, I know I'll visit with family. Have good meals. See friends. Indulge in amusing conversations. Lots of fun music. (Adam is in two bands.)
What it doesn't mean is writing.
I can still accomplish daily things like keeping up with e-mail and phone calls.
But I do no writing. Still, I consider these kinds of trips "gathering days." Good writing is made up of details. So on these hours away from the computer, away from actual writing, I become a collector of details. Some I collect actively, most passively.
It may look as if a writer uses such stuff to keep her away from the actual hard work of writing. And in fact many authors will tell outsiders just that. But do not be fooled. It is actually all grist to the mill.
...I realize that we writers still must live in the real world. That means cakes, letters, bills, clogged toilets, etc. That means reading other people's books, watching TV, doing crossword puzzles, chatting on the phone. That means taking children to school, to the orthodontist, to choir practice, to basketball games. That means working till 3, till 5, till 8, till midnight. That means vacuuming the living room of cat hairs, dog hairs, husband's hairs. That means running to the grocery store, the paint store, the shoe store. That means going to the doctor, the dentist, the hair salon.
What that means is life.
Besides, without life, what's there to write about?
I read this today and loved it. And I didn't just love it because it gave an excuse for not writing - quite to the contrary, I would love to write more than I do. I'm never waiting for the muse or lacking inspiration. Instead, I am always consumed with daily life and not making writing a priority within that life. I loved it because it made sense of the time we spend not writing. It gave that time the same validity and importance as what we create from it.
When I am not writing, I am gathering. I am gathering up life lessons and relationships and gossip and character sketches and ideas. I am gathering up love and angst and sadness and joy and anxiety to write into something someday. I just must be careful to take breaks from gathering to write it down, before my bucket overflows and some of the good stuff I gathered gets left behind, lost, and never written about.
And one last thing - did you know the word "journal" is derived from the French word "jour" as in "day"? We all know "jour" from "soup de jour" but it also in journaling means writing daily. So that is what I resolve. To spend thirty minutes a day journaling while what I've gathered is fresh. Thirty minutes is not hard, even if I am a mother of two rowdy boys. After all, I am writing right now while they are playing contentedly a few feet away. I can make anything an excuse, but making something a priority is where I will find fulfillment.