Where I Seriously Barely Wrote: The New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx.
How I Feel About What I Wrote: Honestly, kinda meh. I will get it out there right off the bat that I’m not upset about how little I wrote. I am sure though that what I did write needs to be cut down a bit; it was the product of me not having prepared enough, getting to the day’s writing spot, and then being way, way too distracted to work out what came next in the plot.
The Mood I Brought to the Table: Now that I think about it (and laugh), I was actually just excited to go to the Botanical Gardens. Little preview of how today’s session went, right there.
The Experience: Turns out some writing spots… are too goddamn good to be writing spots.
In case you don’t know, photography is one of my hobbies. Thanks to a friend from a few years back, I got into it a bit more than the average person–there are tripods involved. Tripods balanced by the fact that my camera absolutely requires tripods to get anything decent (it’s definitely old and falling apart).
I recessed from photography though; pulling away from it was part of a kind of hobby purge I performed earlier in the year when I realized that my desire to be really good at a handful of things was actually detracting from the one talent I was best at. It’s something I still stand behind–I don’t take pictures or do design work on Photoshop or devote my time to online multiplayer in a variety of FPS’s because those aren’t the things I want to be the best at. I’m not a logo designer–I could be, but it’s not what I already am. I’m not a pro gamer although I might hit that distinction if I dropped way too much time into gaming. I’m also not a photographer even though I really like taking pictures.
I’m a writer. I always have been. And, earlier in the year, I realized it was silly and self-defeating to try to be everything but.
That said, I learned a really, really valuable lesson today. My need to take pictures of things can absolutely outweigh my need to write.
When I rolled out of bed today, I was excited to visit the Botanical Gardens because, having been there recently, I knew it would be an awesome place to write. Not a mistake–it definitely is. If you’ve never been, there are benches everywhere here–in a place designed to be quiet, relaxing, and beautiful. And, although I’m sure it’s busier in the summer, it is the one place in New York that never feels crowded–there are only other patrons here to relax or employees who are almost strangely nice. No, coming to the Botanical Gardens to write could never possibly be a mistake.
The mistake was thinking, “I’ll bring my actual camera so I can take nice pictures for once instead of shaky, quick snapshots on my tablet.”
When I got to the Botanical Gardens, it was overcast. I thought it was going to rain, meaning that I went straight for the spot I remembered from my last visit–a handful of canopied benches in the Native Plant Garden, not too far from the Visitor Center. I got there, whipped out my camera, set up my tripod, got a few simple, kind of ugly, overcast shots to post here.
Only, No–there are better shots here, I found myself thinking. I looked for them, lining up the Native Plant Garden’s small river and waterfall with its benches and paths. I tried several spots, knowing there was a decent angle somewhere, getting a few pics that I were just alright.
And then it sank in–time had passed. A lot of time. At least a half hour, sunk directly into trying to find a good shot to use for this site. Alright. Alright. Time to write now, I told myself. I got out a portion of a scene, remembered that it wasn’t where Chapter 4 was supposed to start, backpedaled and started the scene I forgot because I was so distracted.
And then a strong breeze came through and blew leaves off of the trees around me in a large, perfect wave.
Well, it certainly sucks that I missed that first wave of leaves. That was the shot, but at least I got a few that were dramatic. Should probably leave my camera out just in case. I went back to writing.
And then the sky opened up.
Well, I mean, come on. I couldn’t not take these pictures. The lighting is too perfect. I sat down again, trying to focus on where I was in the story.
And then, another breeze. I wound up sitting with my tablet on my lap and hand on my camera–standing next to me–staring at the trees, repeatedly turning the camera to different angles, and taking way too many pictures.
It got to the point that I realized I had to find some place less photogenic or I wouldn’t get any writing done. I packed up by sheer will (I seriously, honestly had to push myself to leave), and wound up back at the Visitor Center, just inside of the Conservatory Gate.
Even if the Botanical Gardens was just the Visitor Center, it would still be a haven for writers; there’s a lot of outdoor seating, rest rooms, a small cafe that sells obnoxiously-priced coffee and not-so-obnoxiously-priced hot chocolate (maybe I’m biased, but it was $2.50–far, far better than City Bakery’s $7.00). In that cafe (I think it was called the Pine Tree Cafe), I finished up the scene I’d been working on, trying and failing to keep it concise.
Failing because I realized I hadn’t even brainstormed this morning–I’d just charged my camera and commuted to the Botanical Gardens, only thinking of taking pictures of everything. In my last moments of writing, I let the scene run on because… “It’s better than nothing?” I stood at my table in the cafe, stared at my tablet, arms crossed… and then finally shrugged. “Yep. Got nothing.”
In contrast to the last time I barely got any words out though, I wasn’t upset; I laughed about it here. Because it was such a lesson. Dropping those other hobbies doesn’t mean they won’t nag at you. The obvious example is the way I will definitely consider playing whatever multiplayer game if I’m home. The need to pull myself out of that environment isn’t key, but it’s wound up making writing so much easier during NaNoWriMo that it’s insane. When I’m writing outside, I don’t drop what I’m writing to play Slayer or Skirmish because I can’t.
But, other hobbies can totally, obviously encroach on writing if you unwittingly choose a spot that has everything to do with them. Am I saying not to try the Botanical Gardens? Of course not; it’s amazing. And it’s free on Wednesdays.
But if you’re also a photographer, visiting in the Fall–of all times–maybe don’t bring your camera.
Or maybe do–for a preliminary visit–to try to get it all out of your system. And to pick a nice spot for next time.