I love taking breaks. Whether it’s a quick pause from my workday to roam outside, an afternoon off to see a movie, or a vacation or to somewhere unique, taking time off gives my body and my mind a chance to rest and revive. What I’ve discovered, though, is that my brain has a hard time going on vacation. While I’m goofing off, my mind mulls over things that are troubling me, absorbs my new surroundings and experiences, and sometimes even conjures vivid memory – all of which I am able to take back to my writing when the break is over. Here’s one spring break story and how it affected my work:
Several years ago my husband and I traveled to the Iowa Great Lakes area where my family and I spent many hours fishing, camping, swimming, picnicking, and generally goofing off when I was young. I was so happy to see my parents and the lake, and introduce my husband to this part of the world that had been so fun and important to me as a child.
My dad took us for a boat ride. We might have fished. We might
have caught something. We might have stayed a few days or a few hours. I don’t remember
the details of that first trip back after a long time of being away. What I do
remember is the warm memories that were stirred up in me. Memories brought on
by the smell of the lake water, the cool spray from the bow, the rainbow that
rode along the mist, the sun in my eye that made me squint and see everything a
bit fuzzy – but somehow more clearly – and the peaceful feeling of spending
quality time with the three people who mean the most to me in the world. My soul
was content, my body relaxed, and my brain unburdened by thinking – at least that's
what I believed.
|West Lake Okoboji courtesy of Joanne & Clayton Will|
Around the time of that trip I was focusing on poetry writing and was paying attention to images and sensory details. Even before I returned from that trip, I began to capture what the lake had stirred in me – the sights and smells of the lake, the sway of the boat. Back home I tapped other memories and images and scrawled notes about being on the water, fishing, families, sisters and brothers, how my dad packed before a trip, how my mom sang to the fish. Poetry began to emerge. Poems that included a dad and his boy hunting for night crawlers, the anticipation of fishing, the thrill of a tug on your line, the disappointment of losing a big one, and the elation of finally catching something big. Eventually a story began to surface – a story that included an enthusiastic fishing boy, his dad, his pesky little sister, and a quest to catch the big one. Years later it resulted in my first published book: GONE FISHING A Novel In Verse, which released last week.
Yes, that break many years ago was just a day at the lake, but it was the perfect getaway because it brought forward those experiences and emotions that helped me connect my past to my present and shape my future. Come to think of it, I could use a good break right now – my parents are visiting and my husband has the boat ready. Even if the fish aren’t biting, maybe – while we’re goofing off – something even more wonderful will pop to the surface!
Tamera Will Wissinger writes stories and poetry for children. She holds a MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. Her first novel, GONE FISHING A Novel In Verse, illustrated by Matthew Cordell, from Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, is now available. Online you can find Tamera on her website, Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook. When she's not busy writing stories or poetry, you may just find her fishing.