The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Up with change! Just not all at once.



By Tricia Dower

Before Colin and I shook things up, I had eight hours each day to spend on writing in a room with a proper desk and ergonomic chair. I was focused on the goal of completing a collection of stories by Fall 2006, enervated by it, actually. Life was good except for a growing discomfort over how much of the planet’s resources we were using.

In July 2005, we sold our house in Toronto -- more room than we needed and a pool that held enough water to irrigate Malawi. Closing was set for mid-November. Over the next few months we gave away or sold most of our stuff. Up with downscaling! We exchanged two cars for one with the best combination of energy efficiency and trunk size. Colin finished a contract with a corporate client, ready to take some time to contemplate a socially responsible future. We’d spend the winter out west and then, who knows? Nothing would change for me except the weather; I’d find a quiet corner wherever we were and write and write and write. Everyone said they envied us. We envied us. It was exciting.

November arrived and the house didn’t close. We put it back up for sale and drove off to the place we’d rented for a month in Capitola, California. It was tired looking and furnished with cast-offs, but roomy. Best of all, it had a fabulous view of the ocean. We set up our desktop PC on the dining room table. Colin used it more than I thought he would, surfing the Net for things to contemplate, catching up on administration. Okay. Sometimes writing longhand helps me be more creative. I sat at a different table not too far from him. It was a novelty being together all the time. I didn’t get much writing done.

We’d chosen Capitola because it was close to my sister and brother-in-law who’d be celebrating their 50th anniversary on Christmas day, hosting a 1950s theme party for sixty guests without benefit of caterers. We’d come early to help. My brother-in-law was recovering from bypass surgery and my sister was taking care of her five-month old grandson four days a week. They needed a lot of help. I didn’t get much writing done.

In January we headed for Victoria’s Shamrock Suites -- a motel, really, that looked way better on the website. We set up the PC on the desk in the living/dining area that was a mere arm’s length from the kitchen in which both of us could not stand at the same time. Every suite looked like every other. Stepping onto the common balcony/walkway outside our door, I felt like one of the refugees the government puts up in grim looking motels on Kingston Road in Toronto. I wondered if I’d ever write seriously again.

In February we moved to a home of tourist suites, each uniquely decorated with antiques. Ours was homey with a kitchen big enough for two, and it cost hundreds less per month than Shamrock. Up with thriftiness! The only place for the PC, however, was in the middle of everything on the kitchen/dining table. I entered into full-blown grieving over the loss of my writing. We went to counseling. I acquired a laptop, set up “office” in the public library and finished a story I’d started in September. We celebrated.

Our house sold for the second time and we spent April back in Toronto, sleeping on a mattress on the floor, eating with dishes and cutlery we bought from (and donated back to) Goodwill. The PC went on a card table we’d left behind and the laptop on a small desk the original purchasers had written into the offer. We emptied the garden of winter’s debris and said our final, this time for real, goodbyes to the dream house turned albatross.

At the moment my laptop lives in the bedroom of a house in Victoria that we’re sitting for friends vacationing in Europe. Part of our job is to tend their garden, and we’re rewarded with the freshest strawberries, lettuce and spinach I’ve ever had. Peas, beans, onions, carrots, turnips, squash and raspberries are sprouting, as well. Colin is away each day studying philosophy at UVic. Six hours are deliciously mine to write and write and write.

In July we’ll move into half of a duplex located a five-minute walk from Victoria’s harbour. As Goldilocks would say, it’s just the right size. A year’s lease is a commitment to finishing my collection. The second bedroom will be my writing room. We’re on the hunt for a proper desk -- second-hand, of course. Up with recycling!

Photo: Colin and I in vintage duds at the Nifty Fifties Anniversary Party.

10 Comments:

Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Good for you and Colin, Tricia. Sounds like all you really need is each other. I've no doubt you'll finish your collection!

Tue Jun 20, 09:32:00 am GMT-4  
Anonymous Denis said...

Oh, the topic of leaving the rat race behind, and just writing, has been on my mind quite a bit, latetly, as I took that plunge recently. As for writing, well... Now the trick is setting a daily schedule for writing, and deadlines, without stressing over them, eh? Thanks for this story, Tricia. It's very encouraging. And good luck!

Tue Jun 20, 10:12:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

If only it were about the big decisions, eh? You make them and then assume everything will fall into place. But it's the week to week, day to day, hour to hour decisions that accumulate to create our lives. I'm so glad you're learning to prioritize your writing, structuring things around it (time, space, energy) instead of assuming it will fall into the cracks left by everything else. I say this as a fan- totally selfishly- I want that collection! But also as a friend, because I know how much happiness you'll be feeling!
Best to you and Colin!

Tue Jun 20, 12:26:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

Great news; I'm happy to hear you've found your 'just right.' Good for you for taking the leap. That collection will be done in no time, I'm sure. Best of luck!


And now you're only a hopskipjump from Vancouver (hint).

Tue Jun 20, 12:59:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, good friends. I appreciate your support. And Antonios, while it's true and great that Colin and I have each other, I learned through this adventure that it's not enough. I need to write. It was painful but good to come to a deep understanding of that.

Yes, Tamara, we're close to Vancouver. I will make it there one day and get together with you and Patricia if possible.

Tue Jun 20, 06:01:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

Enjoy your happiness, and spread it around.

Tue Jun 20, 09:35:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

I loved reading about your personal adventure with travel and writing this past year. It's so encouraging that you two have found your way. I hope we can meet sometime, the next time you pass by. :)

Tue Jun 20, 10:33:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Tricia, I took it as a given that you needed to write, but that photo of you and Colin really struck a chord with me. Something will always get in the way of the writing, but it’s the steady things in life that keep us grounded, better able to get through those long dry spells when for whatever reason, we can’t get the words on the paper. I love that picture of you and Colin embracing on the danse floor, kept me from feeling your sense of urgency to write, I think. Sorry.

Wed Jun 21, 12:37:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

No need to apologize, Antonios. You're absolutely right. I love that photo. It does show what matters. Sometimes it's hard for me to acknowledge that. I just want to suck my thumb and pout.

Wed Jun 21, 05:29:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Patricia said...

What an adventure Trica, really, it is, and to know that you're home, that you've found this place. I love the picture of you and Colin. You are an amazing couple. So glad to see you..xoxo

Thu Jun 22, 02:01:00 am GMT-4  

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