Write Byte

Feeding the Soul

(October 23, 1997)


From time to time, author Susan Wiggs sends me information about upcoming releases and booksignings. The last time she did, I was particularly interested because of all the good buzz coming out about her latest release, The Lightkeeper. So I emailed her in return and asked her if she wanted to write a Write Byte for All About Romance. I left the subject matter completely up to her and thoroughly enjoyed Susan's right-side-of-the-brain take on her assignment. I hope you will too.

Here's what she sent in:

Bear with me - there's a method in my madness.

Several years ago, I started reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron when we lived in Houston. That, combined with the wisdom of my wonderful mother-in-law, led to our decision to move from there to an island in Puget Sound. In her book, which in a nutshell is about nurturing your creative self so you don't wither and shrivel up and wind up writing ad copy for plumbing brochures , she says to "get rid of your crazymakers." For me, that was Houston heat, traffic, humidity, and Jay's rat race job. My mother-in-law, who was diagnosed inoperable cancer, said "It's later than you think." Which is my long way of explaining why we dropped everything and moved to a Christmas tree farm in the middle of an island, where we can't see or hear any neighbors and the yard is fondly called "Jurassic Park."

Which is my even longer way of explaining how my book, The Lightkeeper, came to be born. I wanted to write a book that captured the almost mystical atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest, and I wanted to write a book about dealing with irretrievable loss. So I went on an Artist's Date (see below). Went to a resort called Ocean Crest in Moclips, Washington and just sank into the awesome setting at the edge of nowhere, and started writing about this young Irishwoman who finds herself lost in America. (Interesting side note: even landlocked writers like the incomparable Eileen Dreyer have been to Moclips). Later that week we drove south along the coast and came to the most magnificent lighthouse you ever saw - Cape Disappointment, at the mouth of the Columbia River. The minute I saw that lighthouse with the waves exploding against the rocks below it, I had my setting, and I had Jesse, The Lightkeeper. The first draft of the book came straight from the heart, and part of the reason it's so emotional is that I really wanted to celebrate the bond between character and place. Of course my heart is a sloppy writer so subsequent drafts turned it into an actual novel.

I wanted to create an Artist Dates list for those in need of nurturing, inspiration, and feeding the soul. I hope you and your readers enjoy it. And add to it too. I'd love to hear from you.

Susan Wigg's Artist Dates:

"ADs are silly - that's the whole point." - Julia Cameron

    Buy a deluxe set of Crayolas, the kind your mother would never get for you. Color like mad!
    Take a bubble bath with a really good book.
    Put on old records or CDs and sing along, following the lyrics in the CD insert or record sleeve.
    Install whimsical fonts on your computer.
    Design an award certificate, citing your own excellence.
    Make a bonfire on the beach.
    Collect driftwood and try whittling.
    Lie flat on your back in the yard and look up at the stars.
    Make a salad with unusual ingredients, like edible flowers.
    Dye something. . .Anything! Bonus: Use natural dyes like onion skin or beet juice.
    Use no electricity for a whole night.
    Page through a glossy movie magazine you rarely look at.
    Get a computer video made of yourself wearing different hairstyles.
    Get a full body massage, facial, manicure, pedicure.
    Have a full English high tea.
    Draw pictures of your favorite people and your worst enemies.
    Page through Architectural Digest and House Beautiful. Cut out pictures of your ideal room.
    Plan a luxury vacation, whether or not you actually take it.
    Decide where you want to be and whom you want to be with on December 31, 1999, at the stroke of midnight.
    Take a ride in a private airplane, just to see the sights.
    Take a boat ride.
    Walk in the woods.
    Walk in the rain.
    Go to a movie all by yourself.
    Rent a guilty pleasure video no one else wants to watch with you.
    Bake something. Cut cookies in dangerous shapes.
    Lie in the bath with cold teabags on your eyelids to keep them shut. Let your mind wander.
    Learn a handicraft: woodburning, wreathmaking, crochet, ceramics, butter sculpture. . .
    Tiptoe through the tulips! Visit a flower farm.
    Watch relaxation or meditation videos.
    Drive around looking at all the flowers in yards.
    Wander through shops at the mall, just looking.
    Visit Powell's bookstore in Portland.
    Lie in a lawn chair in your bathing suit with a new novel and enjoy the warm weather.
    Put up a bird house and rake the yard
    Go to a play.
    Blow bubbles in lots of different sizes.
    Play the piano.
    Go to a firing range and learn to shoot a gun.
    Make a dreamcatcher.
    Listen to a musical or opera complete with libretto.
    Spend a morning in a fabric store or craft store.
    Play video games at Sega World.
    Choose a coloring book and colored pencils, then color.
    Window shop in the highest priced district near you.
    Burn incense.
    Collect smooth stones and paint and draw on them.
    Look at old family albums and reminisce.
    Go somewhere gorgeous, like a botanical garden or arboretum, and shoot a whole roll of film.
    Do figure sketching from one of those movable artist mannequins. Make cards with stamp pads, colored inks, and watercolors.
    Sit on the back porch watching the birds and blow bubbles.
    Drive the back roads in a pickup truck with a dog and listen to country and western music, cranked up loud.
    Pick up interesting boulders for the garden.
    Fly a kite.
    Walk a beach in the snow or in the rain.
    Spray paint a whole bunch of stuff with gold and silver and cobalt blue spraypaint.
    Go leaf looking in the fall.
    Browse at local bookstore that has comfortable armchairs.
    Try out drums in a music shop.
    Browse in shops that carry handmade things.
    Have a Paul Newman and Sean Connery moviefest.
    Gift yourself with a writing workshop you really want to attend.
    Watch Bill Moyers videos on poetry.
    Spend a night home alone, reading poetry aloud.
    Take a morning to write poetry.
    Go for a swim in a heated pool.

Susan Wiggs

Susan's Bibliography:

  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
  • Put Your Heart on Paper by Henriette Anne Klauser
  • If You Want to Write by Brenda Euland
  • The Creative Fire (audio tape) by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
  • The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

Susan has a web site and hopes you will visit her at http://www.sff.net/people/SusanWiggs

I hope you'll visit as well, in addition to providing her complete backlist (including ISBN's and prices), this site has a great sense of humor!

E-mail Susan
Susan Wiggs interview