acheron, anglophile, california girl, doldrums, great britain, jack aubrey, master and commander, north star, oxford, patrick o'brian, pursuit, scotland, ship, the artist's way, wales, writer for 365, writer's life, writers
I talked recently about what I do when I feel lost or fearful in my creativity…about how I realign with my North Star using my compass, The Artist’s Way. Today I will talk about what I do when the doldrums strike. I don’t think this is uncommon when you’re stuck at home sick. You may see your North Star shining brightly on the horizon, but there’s no breeze to fill the sails, or the crew is too lethargic from the onset of scurvy, or worse, they’ve mutinied! In essence, your ship is stuck until the situation is resolved.
So, here’s what I do. I lock myself away in my cabin and…
First, I write. Writers write, even when it feels like the worst sort of drivel ever penned. If you’re lucky, you read it later and think, “That’s not actually half bad.” Most of the time, though, it is. But it’s what you have to write to get to the good stuff.
Second, I put on classical music and look at pictures of Oxford…the colleges, the streets, the buildings. I’m instantly filled with a sense of purpose and excitement about life. What is it about that city…about that country…the whole of Great Britain, in fact…that keeps this California girl going? I’m sure my family and friends would like to know as well. All I know is that at the age of eleven I read the complete history of Scotland, falling in love with Bonnie Prince Charlie (the beginning of my weakness for Scottish men) and dreaming of coastal cottages and gray skies. Not long after I declared that one day I would live in London (I’m still not sure where that came from), and I didn’t let up until at the age of nineteen I moved away from home and into a cheap flat in Northwest London. It became my city, and almost twenty years later I still think about London and miss it every day. Now I’m eager for our next vacation which will be to Wales, to cruise down the peaceful canals in a narrowboat, me writing and my husband and I seeing if it’s a way of life we could handle long-term. As for Oxford, I’ve just always loved and pined for it. Not Cambridge…not Bath…Oxford. Though every attempt to make it mine thus far has been thwarted, my love for it remains true; it never fails to remind me of who I am and what I want in life.
And I’m realizing as I write this that what brings me the most happiness and joy is not the “getting” or “having” (of things or accomplishments), but the pursuit of them. Regardless of whether or not I ever write the great American novel or am accepted into the hallowed halls of Oxford, I love who I am when I’m pursuing these things. And I suppose that is why, when struck by the doldrums, for whatever reason, I dream about the chase.
I’m reminded here of Captain Aubrey in the film adaptation of Patrick O’Brian’s books…of his obsession with catching the French privateer, the Acheron, and how he is happiest when in pursuit of it. So, in keeping with my British loyalties and to end my musings, I will leave you with a favorite scene from the film, when Captain Aubrey joyfully turns his ship and his sights back toward the Acheron, which we see in the distance.