- Erin Cleary
The falling yellow leaves are beginning to invade my outdoor reading space. Now sweeping them off the small deck is part of my daily morning ritual before I curl up with my book and the dog and a cup of coffee and wait for the rest of my world to begin moving. I need a fuzzy jacket to balance out the crispness of the air and I am grateful more for the warmth of the coffee than the caffeine in it. As I gaze out into the summer garden, I wonder if the remaining tomatoes will have time this season to plump up to red, or if I will have to find a new recipe for green tomatoes. This is my favorite calm space in the whole house. This is cozy: the adjective, verb, and emotion.
In this spot I curl up with my kids. My older daughter will sit and read in parallel with me, our knees touch or our feet intertwine. These are the maternal moments of connection that bring me great joy. It is the same when my younger one snuggles in under my arm and shares my stack of picture books. She’s remarkably good at analyzing them with me and offers insights I didn’t come to on my own. She is a great teacher in helping me learn from picture books (they are written for children, after all) and a frequent source of inspiration for my own writing.
Inspiration often comes when I’m feeling cozy. Maybe it’s that relaxed feeling that opens one’s mind to new ideas, or the comfort and security to think new things. I am always amazed at how an idea can take shape and become a story, a poem, a series of meaningful images. I read them and reread them. I think they are beautiful and thought-provoking. They move me. This is when I think, gosh, I’ve got this! Then I submit to my critique group. They read, discuss, and (yikes!) critique. Then I go back to look at it and I wonder what the heck I was thinking! How did I not see the gaping hole, the imagery that just didn’t work, the yuck of it? Don’t get me wrong, my writing group is made up of wonderful, supportive people, some of whom I have known for coming on 20 years. They know my writing and they know me. I trust them to help me become a better writer.
I may not agree with all their comments, but I give respect and time to thinking about what each person says. What did they notice was a common problem? What did one say that made another say, “Oh, yes, that is exactly right. You need to make that change”? Even when I disagree about a change they suggest, I am forced to think about that particular spot in my writing and address the hard questions, such as why I’m so attached to certain words, what I’m really trying to say, and how maybe the way I’m saying it isn’t having the effect I want. Sometimes this could simply mean rearranging a few words, or it could mean adding more details to flesh the story out. It is a great comfort to have these wonderful people to help me mold my stories. The best advice for any writer is to find a trusted group of fellow writers to give you feedback on your work. There is nothing like a second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth pair of eyes to help you see what you can’t see from the inside when you’re full of attachment and emotion about something you’re writing about.
Another favorite cozy spot is at the table with my writing group, a cup of something warm in hand, a block of cheese and selection of fruit arranged on a cutting board in the center, and great stories to share. We’ve been with each other through weddings, births, losses, joys, griefs, rejections and publications. Our writing relationships are enhanced by our personal connections.
I am grateful for the cozy in my life. Books with my kids, shared experiences with friends, and a quiet spot to curl up with the dog and look at the garden. Cozy is an adjective, a verb, and an emotion. I’m grateful for cozy in all its forms.