Solitude and Scribbling in My Writing Cave

Snowy stairs up to my writing cave

A Writing Cave in Winter

Weeks have piled up into months since I escaped the necessary evil that is Toronto. Here in New Brunswick, looking down from the window of my second-story writing cave onto the snows and thaws of the tree-walled lawn where I learned to ride a bicycle, indeed where I first learned to mumble, chatter, yell and sing in my mother tongue, I consider that the number of hours I spend each day in writing, reading, corresponding and editing is greater than the number of people I have spoken with in person more than once since I arrived here in mid-December. I have crossed paths with more deer and rodents than bipeds.

View of my snowy acre from the window of my second-story writing cave

My Writing Cave: A Room of One’s Own With a View

This semi-exile is a boon to my productivity (and piano playing), but the menu of stimuli to which I am exposed—though excellent—is sparse. In the neighbourhood I left in Toronto, I could walk in less than 10 minutes to my choice of half a dozen live music venues (including, importantly, first-rate jazz on an almost daily basis); a dozen Japanese or Korean restaurants, three each of Indian, Lebanese, Thai and Vietnamese; three new and used bookstores and a library to which I can have delivered any of a million books, DVDs and CDs; as well as swim in a public pool, go to my favourite repertory cinema, visit the dentist, do all banking, grocery shopping and other errands; and, most significant for me, meet with groups of native speakers of French, Spanish, Portuguese, American Sign Language, Korean or Japanese; or step onto the subway for access to ten times as many possibilities. Taking my New Brunswick writing cave as a point of departure, a 10 hour drive would scarcely bring the majority of such options within reach.

Fortunately, this is an era which enables me to make do with online substitutions for a number of these amenities, such as certain manifestations of language practice and films. However, such substitutions are not the same thing as being there, in that place where there is every day too much to do, where to partake of one golden opportunity causes you to miss out on several others.

All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy. Hitting huge log with heavy axe

All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy. All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy. All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy. (I did split this sucker!)

And yet, my writing cave lets me work with loud music on at 03h00; it lets me leap out of bed before dawn or crawl out at noon, depending on what the muse whispers to me in the morning or demanded of me the night before. The writing cave leaves me space — indoors and out (and psychologically as well as physically) — to start every day by doing my thumpy, jumpy, kicky taekwondo forms, or to contend with insomnia by pounding it out on the heavy bag in the garage below. It shows me the moon and the sun through its skylight; its windows like big-screen TVs show me snowfall, windstorms or chirping birds and meandering deer over a sun-glazed acre of land which is mine to neglect, maintain, or run and roll around on. Below my window, I can chop wood from a wind-felled tree, soak off the wholesome grime in my claw-foot bathtub, and then sit with my father by his fire discussing how the Romans could have saved their empire if only they had listened to us, or learn how to speak toddler-ese when my niece drops by, until a bottle of the world’s finest wine has breathed long enough and we gather to feast on local, organic, fair trade, free-run moose.

The Writer at Work. Splitting a log

The Writer at Work

The world-famous city I was born in vs. the agreeably overlooked town I grew up in. Like moving and resting, waking and sleeping, getting dirty and bathing, an excess of one makes you wish for the other. Plainly, (unless I find a home* some other where), I must divide my months between the polis and the outpost.

*Home is where I hang my hat. Home is where I hang around. Home is where I hang out. Home is where I let it all hang out. Home is where I hang my head. Home is where I hang myself. Home is where I feel that I am myself, and that is not a place, it is a state of mind that comes more frequently and stays longer in some places than in others. “Wherever you go, there you are.”

My Snowy Acre of Tree-Walled Lawn

My Snowy Acre

14 Comments

Filed under family and relationships, habits, Optimism & Inspiration, perspective, writing

14 responses to “Solitude and Scribbling in My Writing Cave

  1. 10is

    Picture this: you’re outside, you’ve had a brainstorm, you’re rushing to get it onto paper, you slip on the steps, you hit your head, you have an even better brainstorm, but you still can’t get up the freakin’ steps. Evan, you’ve simply got to apply a shovel to those steps.

  2. Dfto

    What a great post! Such a nice treat to sneak a peek into the beautiful environment you are currently living in. Snowless Toronto has got nothing on that gorgeous view of yours. Clearly this location has been good for giving you more time to do the things that you love. All that city stuff will always be there when you have finished perfecting your forms, become a toddlerese expert, and got your manuscript exactly as you want it.

    • Thank you, Dfto! Make sure nothing happens in Toronto till I get back. (Unless getting rid of Rob Ford can be achieved before my arrival; I’d really appreciate if you could take care of that.)

  3. Rosa

    Elvis Costello

  4. TinyShinyOne

    So New Brunswick is an unnecessary evil? Or is it simply unnecessarily evil?

    Either way, shovel the stairs.

  5. S

    And give photo credits…

  6. Stevan Jovanovich

    Evan:

    You are a much better writer than I was led to believe during our brief, inglorious stint at Runtime. Technical writing does not bring out the best in people. I’m enjoying what you’re doing now. You have talent. Keep up the good work!

    Stevan Jovanovich

    • Thank you, Stevan! Yes, I never did feel at home writing marketing material for the aerospace industry. Not much room there for things like puns and irony.
      I’m pleased to know you are enjoying what I am doing now; I hope you are enjoying what you are doing now, too! I look forward to seeing you again on the telly. Do keep me informed!

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