NaNoWriMo Day 20: A great day to break out of the routine

Before I talk about the writing, I want to talk about being outside in the cold Canadian weather. Because there should be more to our days than word counts and because going for a walk is the perfect antidote to writer’s block and a sluggish mind.

When I felt it was time to take a break from writing today, I went for a walk in our local arboretum among the leafless tress that stand as sentinels, majestic and grand, looking out over the canal. It was beautiful out there. Beautiful and cold and inspiring.


The white exhaust of a plane spread, a widening streak cleaving the blue sky, before turning sharply and seeming to dive towards Earth. It was joined by the tracks from other planes, criss-crossing over each other.

The low, white winter sun slanted across an already hardened ground, which still smells of leaves and earth and sweetness. The shadows are longer now, noticeably longer than they were at the same hour in the summer. Already there is ice on the pond and along the edges of the stream that trickles between the gentle hills and under old, abandoned timber bridges that lead nowhere.

I watched as the last geese of the season flew by and a red squirrel chattered in a tree, delighting in the red berries that fall had left behind.

I couldn’t help but smile to myself at the beauty of it all. The other people I met were smiling too, content and awed in the frozen Eden. There, it is easy to block out and ignore the surrounding city, its cranes and traffic and busyness.


There is a wildlife garden there, at the far end of the arboretum. It is maintained by field naturalists. I walked through it feeling as though I was out in the woods, far away from the city. The last vestiges of milkweed vines trailed through the trees, planted there to attract butterflies in the summer.

Today, summer seems so far away.

I love the cold of winter descending and I am energized by the changing of seasons. I particularly love fall and winter. I look forward to skating on the canal, to skiing, and tobogganing with my son.

Ads for beach holidays don’t even tempt me away from my enthusiasm for the cold. They will eventually, but probably not until March. Right now, things feel as they should and I find that incredibly reassuring and uplifting.

Other years, when we’ve had mild falls and winters, I’ve felt like all was not quite right with the world. It’s disturbing in a northern climate not to feel the cold when you are supposed to.

I guess I am really at peace with my northern heritage. I love the early darkness, the sun arcing low in the sky, walks out in the cold and huddling inside afterwards with a warm drink.

Getting outside was just what I needed today. I think I’ve been sitting inside too much, writing as much of the memoire as I can and then researching for the next day’s writing.

I felt so much better for having briefly broken away from the daily novel writing to write something else, and going for a walk was the perfect next step. I’m not sure why I didn’t do either of these things earlier in the month.

Writing a poem last night and a blog post this morning (about something other than NaNoWriMo, that is) has uncorked that part of my brain out of which springs all my writing and ideas. As a result, the words and poetry and other creative thoughts have not stopped flowing; I can’t get them down fast enough. It’s a wonderful, free feeling.

It even propelled me to write 1500 words for the novel. But more important than the word count, these are good words. Words I really am proud of.

Much of the novel is description; description of people, places, events. I know, you’re supposed to show rather than tell, but I have to say – today anyway – I don’t care. I like my descriptions.

If no one else ever reads this memoire, at least I will have written it. I like where it is going and I like revisiting those five years of my life.

Today, I focused on four women I worked with from the fall of 2000 to the fall of 2001. I told their stories, somewhat fictionalized, and described their unique characteristics. I captured the essence of them. It was like visiting with them once more.

It was a great day to break out of my routine, and I discovered that by returning to doing the things I love, I could rejuvenate my my mind, my creativity, my writing and my perspective.


5 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Day 20: A great day to break out of the routine

  1. I’m so glad you took this break. The arboretum looks amazing—I can’t believe the tree in the photo…so beautiful.I am inspired by your ability to embrace the short days. And the brown, twiggy environment. I’m guessing what I see right now out my window is very close to what you are seeing although my attitude needs a little adjustment :). Hope you can get out today too!

    • Thanks Robin. Today I went to a friend’s for tea-it lasted 3 hrs so that was a pretty good outing too!
      My phone died yesterday or I would have taken more pictures. It was so beautiful, even in all its twiggyness 🙂

  2. I struggle with “show don’t tell” as well. Not because I like my descriptions. I don’t. I think it’s the lazy side of me. I find that I am really strong at dialogue but not so strong writing scene. This is where I know I need to focus if I am going to be a better writer. What’s Intersting though is how this mirrors my personality and who I am in my non writing life. I’m often impatient and want to get down to talking without observing enough… What about you?

    • Hm that’s an interesting observation about your approach in your two aspects of life. I think I’m pretty reflective in my non writing life and I tend towards written communication instead of verbal. So my reticence at using dialogue in my writing is, I guess, consistent. My long descriptions could also be due to the part of me that likes writing poetry.
      What have you done with the part of your novel you saved?

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