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Writer’s Guilt Turns to Gold at a Picnic

Young Adult fiction writer Liz deBeer discovers, if she is open to the universe's support, she'll find inspiration for her writing, even at breakfast.

By Liz deBeer

July 20, 2023

Nibbling on a breakfast burrito at a picnic table surrounded by my family, I wanted to focus on the multi-generational togetherness, the pine scent, and the cheese-egg-salsa-black beans wrap, but I kept feeling guilty: I’m not working on my book.

The see-saw tilted back and forth in my mind: Be here now, enjoy your family, food, and scenery. Then: I’m not working on my book. Then: Let it go. Be here now.

Struggling to release my angst, I zoomed in on my senses, sort of writing in my mind: the wooden table’s uneven grooves, the bird whistles, the tickling breeze …

Then a gravel crunching, chattering clump of jogging girls approached and scattered at adjacent tables, panting, bantering, stretching out, redoing ponytails, fiddling with earrings. Absolutely perfect snapshots of high school female athletes, like the protagonist of the contemporary young adult novel I’m revising in the Book Revision Lab

Straining to soak it all in, I was flooded with gratitude for this rich setting. Was this destiny?

Julia Cameron, renowned author of The Artist’s Way, suggests moments like this are “synchronicity.” She leans into a spiritual framework, suggesting that a higher power is our collaborator. Regardless of our religious beliefs, this idea that “there is a second voice, a higher harmonic, adding to and augmenting your inner creative voice” offers possibilities for inspiration, even during breakfast.  

Cameron, whose book I read in its entirety for a Project Write Now writing class, encourages artists to “accept the possibility that the universe is helping you with what you are doing… Expect the universe to support your dream. It will.”

It will? Cameron’s confident voice battles with my doubts. I’m not even sure what my dreams are!

Yet, synchronicity happens. Psychologist and philosopher Carl Jung describes it as “a meaningful coincidence” and has been attributed with saying, “Synchronicity is ever-present for those who have eyes to see.”

Yearning to see more, to observe rather than look, I periodically keep a log of serendipitous moments to inspire me and my writing. One of my cousins calls such moments “winks from above,” a little reminder that the universe might really be extending encouragement. Like finding an old card from my late mother with a yellowing cartoon clip inside which perfectly fits my current mood. Or discovering that my random airplane seatmate is a varsity athlete in the same sport as my main character. Or bumping into a former student on whom I based a secondary character.

I also try to log my dreams; maybe they’ll be actualized if I define them. When I see my goals in writing, I start believing: Maybe I’ll find a supportive agent. Maybe my YA novels will be published. Maybe my books will receive positive reviews. 

Since that outdoor breakfast evolved into a source of inspiration, I’m ready for more, seeking the “higher harmonic” and the universe’s support, whether I’m at my laptop or a picnic table. The rewards? Less guilt when I’m not writing. With each revelation, each moment of synchronicity, my writing improves as I discover more ways to see.

Liz deBeer, a retired language arts teacher, has published in newspapers, teaching journals, and magazines, including The New Jersey English Journal and Lilith Magazine. She currently resides in New Jersey where she is writing young adult novels.