As I write uncharacteristic weather is demanding energy and attention and this morning while I shoveled drive and walks yet again, my mind turned mildly allegorical. Born in Canada and sojourning in a half dozen different climatic zones, I’ve developed a discipline towards snow removal that, on reflection, serves me well when I apply it to my writing work.
As soon as conditions permit, I clear what’s on the ground: this causes my children, raised in Kentucky, no end of bafflement. “Why bother?” they demand (hoping to dissuade me from insisting on their involvement in my odd behavior). Because they asked, I delight in pointing out the advantages of my method.
Doing the work immediately means I get a sense of conditions “in the field.” I know how the wind feels, I see up close what kind of snow this is. Once I’m out, I notice details I’d never have seen from the window or on a quick scurry from warm house to car—the weather ceases to be just the stuff I have to slog through, and begins to present unique joys (this morning’s dusting, for example, had those large crystals that reflected jeweled light).
In addition, keeping up with the task means it’s rarely overwhelming: I live in Central Kentucky where the snowfall is never heavy. Though my back and knees could never handle a deep snow, regular moderate effort serves me well here.
In fact, there are unexpected surprise benefits for my having simply done the work. Yesterday, though the temperature never officially rose above freezing, the simple act of clearing what was on the ground meant that the day’s light reflected off the surrounding banks of snow and heated up the exposed drive and walks, so that by the day’s end everything was completely clear, down to the pavement. Oh, sure, it snowed again last night, but this morning there was no accumulated, hard-packed neglect that threatens underneath this morning’s small collection. In past snows, I’ve seen neighbors hacking away at dangerous ice once things begin to melt; our regular effort means our small plot harbors no hazards that demand such hard labor.
The analogy breaks down, of course, at many levels. But I’m reminded that regular attention to the writing prevents despair and the feeling of defeat, and leaves the way clear for inspired discoveries to shine unencumbered.