As much as I’d like to say writing is all about divine inspiration, the work is mostly about the ritual. The creative habit, as Twyla Tharpe calls it, in action. The words don’t always flow so easily. I probably say this like a broken record if only to remind myself sometimes.
Writing is a lot of staring at a blank page and waiting. For me, the inspiration often comes in those moments when I walk away and let the ideas work themselves out in my head. When I’m lucky, the abstract begin to take form.
For years, I had a routine of stepping away midday each Thursday, grabbing the dog’s leash and strolling a couple blocks to the Farmers Market for food and flowers. Mostly for the flowers.
I’d weave through the people and the vendors, picking up locally harvested honey and homemade baba ghanoush; handfuls of heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil. Mags was busy making friends, old and new. English Bulldogs have that charm – like a starlet to her waiting paparazzi. As I filled my shopping tote, I’d wind my way towards the end of the block where my favorite flower vendor always set up shop. I’d pick a few pompon mums or peonies, a bouquet of ranunculus or, if he had them, an armful of parrot tulips.
An hour away from my desk was time to let thoughts and ideas marinate and get the pup some exercise. I’d return to my desk with a vase of fresh flowers and fresh story ideas ready to flow. The dog snoring at my feet, I’d go to work.
It was a good habit, if I do say so myself. I wonder what became of that vendor when the market moved?
Proust can keep his madeleines (I’m allergic to them anyhow). I believe in the power of flowers to take scent and memory and put it to the test. With a whiff of night blooming jasmine, I’m transported to the Graceland summers of my youth. A red rose reminds me of the first time a boy brought me flowers in high school – the single stem seemed as exciting as two dozen. A bowl of gardenias brings back memories of playing dress up in my grandmother’s furs and dresses.
Certain themes fill the pages of my screenplays and short stories – ensembles that resemble my circus-like family, relationships between sisters, the ways books and music leave marks on our lives. And the flowers. The flowers of my City of Angels, and the flowers of the places I’ve lived and loved.
As I write, flowers creep their way in. They always do. Daisy chains made on lazy spring afternoons, blooming magnolia trees lining a shady street, unexpected deliveries of dahlias from a stranger.
I once received notes on a script pointing out that peonies couldn’t grow in the climate where I’d set a scene. The peonies could easily become something else. Hydrangeas, I offered. Or maybe rambling roses. Roses it was.
The type of flower mentioned wasn’t integral to the story, only the garden setting was. My heart wasn’t set on peonies but, looking back, there’s no doubt in my mind what had returned with me from the Farmers Market that week. No guessing what sat in the vase upon my desk as I wrote that scene. Flowers creeping in, as they always do.
This post is sponsored by Interflora, but the words, opinions, and the love of flowers, are all my own. With friends and family in the US, UK and Australia, I can easily send fresh flowers from Interflora to them all from one site.