Atrophy & Recovery – Part II by Janine M. Donoho

Last night during a nocturnal wander through the house, during wakefulness fueled by housetraining that adorably cute Italian Greyhound viewed in Part I, I noticed starlight bouncing off the black plastic laid for next year’s garden area. You see, this is one of the most passive and easy returns on preparing soil for new plantings.

Beneath the opaque cover, which soaks up late summer and autumn rays, then cooks the existing seed banks into submission, the organics formerly-known-as-weeds become fuel for astilbe, peonies, anchusa and other faves. Well, an equivalent to this is what happened during my crossover from tech writer with fictional aspirations into novelist. As promised, I’ll share the watershed events that led to this transition.

The equivalent of plastic mulch in my life at that time took me from writing about forced draft blowers, main feed pumps, lithium bromide plants and the ever cool condensers into first women’s fiction, then onto my latest rage of contemporary and high fantasy. Okay, admittedly, FDBs and MFPs can be wickedly geekish and even satisfying to write about, but world building’s way more fun.


Allow me to tout two books, which at that time helped me both mentally and emotionally into transition. Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ WOMEN WHO RUN WITH THE WOLVES and Julia Cameron’s ARTIST’S WAY provided both cure and inspiration for what ailed me. Let’s face it, Navalese-speak does not make for a bestselling author, although it does help with keeping to just-the-facts Jack.

Estes’ tome uncovered personal stories, often painful, that thwarted my instincts to probe into the depths and dark places. Then Cameron gave me permission to use those finds to go where story lives. Yes, I’d dabbled in poetry, fiction and playwriting before then, which had been somewhat successful. Let’s face it; a menu that includes twelve weeks of the equivalent of really good dark chocolate for the brain and spirit can take you so much further. Especially when led through the process by Estes and Cameron’s empathetic, yet grounded approaches to healing.

Since then, I’ve turned to other geographically remote mentors such as Stephen King’s ON WRITING, Carol Lloyd’s CREATING A LIFE WORTH LIVING, Susan Shaughnessy’s WALKING ON ALLIGATORS and FRUITFLESH by Gayle Brandeis. I’ve even returned to Julia Cameron, although her later works failed to spark the same cascade of light as ARTIST’S WAY, through no fault of hers. We artists are receptive at different times to different magnitudes of inspiration, after all.


So if you find that atrophy has set in and hope to recover not only your mojo, but go to a greater level of creativity and productivity, think in terms of mulching your creative beds for your next planting season.

As it happens, I plopped four bags of commercial soil onto my black mulch, cut the tops open, then planted each bag with cold crop vegetables such as arugula, Kweik organic lettuce, endive, pak choy and broccolini. Oh, and I threw a few seeds of Misato Rose radishes and boro beets in for good measure. Next year, that soil will be turned into what lies beneath to further enrich the soil. Yum.
So I encourage you, too, to turn to the sources that feed your soul and makes it fertile. It beats atrophy every time. And if a puppy helps you along your way, why not?

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27, 2015
The big day is here.

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