When writers aren’t writing

Yesterday, the donkeys got out of their pen.

As we chased them around the field, trying to get them corralled again, I found myself thinking that this was not what most people imagine writers doing in their free time.  And since turning in my final edits a week ago, I’ve been blessed with an abundance of free time — the first free time I’ve had in months.  I’m not accustomed to it.  I wake up every morning ready to be anxious, ready to tackle some new writing task, and suddenly realize: hey, I don’t have to write!  I can do whatever I want to!

And what I’ve chosen to do is work in the hot sun like a field hand.

Besides chasing those naughty donkeys (who eventually were coaxed back into their corral) I’ve been weeding my vegetable garden.  Yesterday, my husband and I installed an irrigation system in our new vineyard — and picked the ticks off each other afterwards.  We’ve been double-digging hard-packed clay soil, enriching it with donkey manure and compost and seaweed, in preparation for a new flower garden next to the barn.  Every night, we’ve collapsed into bed, exhausted and sunburned.

I’ve had the greatest time.

A week ago, starting on the next book was the last thing I wanted to do.  But now, after only a week away from my desk, I can feel the old writing engine start to hum back to life.  I’ve been hearing snatches of dialogue, and a character’s voice — a teenage girl, about fifteen, streetwise and in big, big trouble — and I’m almost ready to sit down and start her story.  But not yet.  I need to let her put down roots first.  I need to let her develop, somewhere in my subconscious, before I tell her story. 

In the meantime, I’m headed back to the vineyard again today, to yank up the last of the winter rye that’s invaded the grapevines.  I need to mulch the asparagus bed and the edamame plants.  And there are lots and lots of blueberries that have ripened in our field over the last few days, and I’ll be picking them for tomorrow’s breakfast.

It’s good to be a writer.  But it’s also good when I don’t have to write.

12 replies
  1. Jude Hardin
    Jude Hardin says:

    I know what you mean, Tess. I sent my manuscript to my agent last week, and now I’m between projects. I’m just like you, except I don’t have a book deal or any donkeys or a vineyard. Yet.

  2. leewynne
    leewynne says:

    nice to share you day to day stuff.
    thinking about getting a donkey, not sure though – have a field that needs to be munched on! any advice?

    I have read Harvest and Vanish so far, I don’t know which book to pick next… I was thinking about the surgeon.

    Lee Wynne

  3. therese
    therese says:

    Those voices a writer hears while working in the sun, and chasing donkeys, are friendly to the break we take from creating story. Writers need to nurture the blueberries too.
    Enjoy breakfast!

  4. Abe
    Abe says:

    Hi Tess,

    Bravo! Taking time for yourself for a change is the most important thing here. Although I don’t have any donkeys (even though there are some neighbors here who are asses), I do have a few flower beds, vegetable gardens and fruit trees that I attend to on a regular basis. When that first flower blooms or that first harvest comes up, how therapeutic is that? Even though it’s still work, at least you don’t have to punch a time clock and you can work at your leisure.
    Take the time you have now to do the things that you enjoy. Spend time with family and friends. I’m sure Jacob loves having you back. We (your fans) love having you back.
    The best of luck on your upcoming release of The Keepsake, and if this book is like your previous ones, then we have anothet NY Times bestseller. We are all so proud of you and behind you 100%. Thanks for being a great friend.

  5. Rondo1219
    Rondo1219 says:

    I agree. Very nice of you to share your day with us. It does sound like a great day at that. I think you are a wonderful writer, I’ve all your books – even the romances, but confess Maura Isles is my favorite character and I can’t wait for your next book to come out. And The Bone Garden – was genius. The woman who did the audio version was fantastic. Thank you for such good books.

  6. Dru
    Dru says:

    I love hearing about your day. You sound so peaceful now that the writing task is over for now. Enjoy this time.

  7. Tess
    Tess says:

    Thank you for all your nice comments! I love the community we have here. And I’ll post photos of donkeys/vineyard/blueberries as soon as I can get them uploaded.

  8. april
    april says:

    I’m such a city girl. All of that just makes my head spin! And, oh, the dirt! 🙂

    Are you doing a book tour for the upcoming book? The Appearances link just pops me back here. I can’t wait for the new book – with or without an appearance. I guess I’ve been spoiled with you coming to town for the last handful of books. 🙂

    I can’t wait for the photos!
    ~ april

  9. M.Christie
    M.Christie says:

    I have a cousin who lives in your neck of the woods. She told me the growing season can be short there, but she and her husband do manage to grow quite a variety of veg, berries, etc. Since a lot of it is ready to harvest around the same time, they do a lot of canning and freezing, and their jam is to die for! I’ve not tried to grow anything but herbs since I moved to Scotland. We don’t see the sun much (arrrrrrrgh!)so I think the veg would be fairly limited. It is very green here, though. See, I remain positive-lol. Anyway, good luck with the vineyard and enjoy your break from writing.

  10. koregonbeads
    koregonbeads says:

    It’s good to be a writer. But it’s also good when I don’t have to write.

    switch the words a bit and its how I feel about what I do.

    It’s good to be a glass artist. But it’s also good when I don’t have to torch. Working for yourself and to do well at what you do is hard…you have to put forth a lot of time and effort and not slack off to much…and give it your all, a lot of the time…but you can just wake up and say, today and tomorrow are for me…no work 🙂

    I am just glad you write, because I love your books, your my newest favorite read 🙂

    Maura and Jane have me captivated, I read all of them…and can’t wait until the new one is out.

  11. mchastain
    mchastain says:

    I’m such a city girl I can’t imagine doing what you do!! I’m glad you’ve had time to relax and do other things!!

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