The Beginnings of a Pla -: Coffee and Conversation

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own.

So settle in, and I’ll get you a cuppa something refreshing, and let’s have a conversation…

Have you ever done something out of the ordinary, and then, once things settled down again, felt a huge surge of creativity and possibility? Have you ever wondered why?

We can get stagnant, when we keep doing the same things in the same way, going through the routines and motions of our everyday. I think we sometimes need to shake life up, in order to move forward – and, once we do, and life settles again, there’s room for the fresh air of inspiration.

At the end of July, my children and I made our annual pilgrimage to Plymouth, MA (pun absolutely intended!). We spent four days at the Pinewood Lodge Campground, at Unschoolers Rock the Campground. It was our time to connect, commune, and camp with old friends, and to meet new ones. We spend a lot of time at the lake, at various campfires, laughing and loving and living away from the Internet and the comforts of home.

It’s an annual shakeup, where we set aside our typical pursuits and rhythms, and give ourselves to what these four days offer… Even after several years, I’m still surprised at how the aftereffects ripple outward, like someone tossing a stone into the lake…

When we got home, I was exhausted – not much sleep, lots of physical activity and input, bracketed by two 230 mile drives, setting up and breaking camp, loading and unloading, packing and unpacking…for two days or so, my mind and body just craved rest.

Next came the scattered days, where I puttered with this and that, never focusing very long on any one thing as I settled back in, gradually returning to a more typical flow.

Toward the beginning of last week, epiphanies began to rise up within me, then to break my surfaces like someone coming up after a dive off the floating dock.

Those epiphanies are beginning to form a network– nothing as concrete as a plan. It’s the nascent beginnings, that, with nurturing, will gestate into something more focused and goal oriented.

So, what are these beginnings?

I’m thinking about writing, and income, and that I would like to have an income from writing – and not just an income, but one that will provide a cushion for our lives, and a means to help others, as well.

  • I recently finished reading Writer Mama, a guide for freelancing while parenting. It’s filled with exercises that move from the simple to the complex, and are designed to offer income along the way.

  • I’m a prolific writer, and I’m getting more efficient at plotting….but I’ve had far less experience with revision. I can’t submit things that aren’t ready for submission – and that means revision.

  • About submission – I haven’t done nearly as much as I’d like to; honestly, it’s my personal High Dive Board. I’ve dipped my toes in, and made a bit of money here and there, but I’ve never immersed myself in the process…I’m getting ready to take a leap of faith…and then do it again and again…

  • I’m not especially motivated by money – we live modestly, and, most of the time, our means are sufficient. They don’t afford a lot of luxury, though, and when things crop up, circumstances can get a bit dicey. A little more savings would us through those times.

  • I am motivated by the desire to connect and communicate with others, to share some of the things I’ve learned, experienced, or have been pondering, and to learn about others’ lives, in the hopes of understanding them, and maybe offering something that moves them. This matters more to me than money.

The shape of an emerging plan? View from aboard the Mayflower II, July 2010. Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton.

No, it’s not a plan – not yet. When I rush to make things concrete, whether in writing or elsewhere, I lose intuitive magic that can only grow beyond the abstract in its own time, and in its own way…

For now, I’m letting these thoughts and impressions be, and attending to them without trying to make them anything other than what they’re growing into. They’re starting to coalesce into the suggestion of a shape, but it’s like an optical illusion. If I try to focus on it too soon, it’ll shift into something else, and this emerging shape will vanish.

I may have more to say about this, in the not-so-distant future, as the shape gains cohesion and definition.

Have you shaken anything up in your life lately? If you have, have any epiphanies emerged from the afterglow? Are there nebulous ideas in your mind, waiting to take shape and shift the flow of your life?

I’ve got a fresh pot of coffee on, a happily whistling teakettle, and a selection of yummy teas and treats. We just had some much-needed rain, and the weather’s cooler, today – won’t you settle in for a bit, and share your story?

Inspiration – and writing – can happen anywhere! On the deck at the lodge, overlooking the lake, July 2014. Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton.


  1. Love the idea of a short trip to shake things up. You’re right — ideas always start to flow as soon as we look at things with new eyes.

    • How fitting to read this after coming home from a visit to an art festival and the Yaddo Rock/Rose Garden with my girl!

      Seeing things through 11 year old eyes again definitely gets my creative juices flowing! =D

  2. I walked down to the U of M natural History museum today. (It took me about 35 minutes.) This is something I could have easily done at any time in the last several years that I’ve lived in Ann Arbor. (But didn’t, I guess, because I’m admittedly kind of lazy) I went there once when I was really young with my aunt and cousins, and have never been since, although I’ve always had a passion for dinosaurs! (I’m planning for my daily blog post to be about this trip, and it will be the first time my blog of 2 and a half years, which is entitled “Not Necessarily About Dinosaurs Or Anything Else,” will ACTUALLY be about Dinosaurs! (I guess that’s kind of like shaking things up, right?)

    • It totally counts as shaking it up in MY book!

      I have a running joke with a friend who lives 10 miles from us in the town we’re in weekly (we live rurally, so we pretty much have to go to a larger town to buy groceries, go to the Y, whatever…). We see another family that lives 5 hours away and in another state, far more often than those close neighbors.

      I think it’s because we have to plan trips to see our New Jersey friends, and, since they’re good friends (and because we don’t live chained to a school schedule),we make it a priority to do that a few weekends a year.

      The close neighbors that we could see anytime? Well, we seem to be OK with putting visits off, because, well, we can go anytime…

      Maybe it’s like that with you and the Natural History Museum?

      How exciting to have finally gone back to a place that feeds your passions! I’m excited to see your dinosaur post, because I’m rather fond of the big extinct fellows, too…

      On Thursday, my 11 year old daughter showed me an ad for an arts festival at The National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Spa State Park. I’m a Saratoga County native, and the park is only 25 minutes of so from home, but I had never been, even though I’ve driven past probably thousands of times. But we were due for a Girls’ Day, and my almost 14 year old son wanted the house to himself for a while, so we went. It was lovely to finally go, and, along the way, we passed the Lincoln Bath House, where people used to be able to, and maybe still can, take purportedly healing mineral baths in the famous waters…

      Something to look into for another day…

      On the way home, I took her to another place she’s never been, but which is one of my favorite places of all time – the gardens at Yaddo, a former mansion that’s now an artists’ retreat. We explored pools, roses, Greek Revival sculpture, a photo shoot about to be staged, and a school of koi longer than my forearm!

      There will be pictures, and blogposts – and the whole adventure, including a bit of necessary shopping and a stop for ice cream, took only about four hours…

      I’m feeling shaken up and inspired again, and so is she!

      Here’s to doing things we’ve put off way too long! =)

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