writing wednesdays: ten ways to use a cot mattress

Writing Wednesdays: Ten Ways to Use a Cot Mattress

1) Stack them up, layer by layer, and practice pretend “pole-vaulting,” seeing who can jump the highest and still land on the target. Giggle plenty upon landing.
2) Lay them out flat, side by side, and have a roll race.
3) Steal a few from your sister’s cot so you’ll have enough to be comfortable.
4) Have big brother assist by holding them up horizontally and body-slamming into them.
5) Enjoy a midday nap upon them.
6) Use them as a resting spot for elbows during video night.
7) Pretend they are roads and drive your cars on them.
8) Jump on them (duh!).
9) Collect them and brag that you have more mattresses than your little brother. Laugh as he fumes at the injustice of it all.
10) Enlist the help of your brothers and friends to build the coolest A-frame forts ever. Create a whole mattress village and have just as much fun when the village caves in as when it was erected.

Ah, those mattresses. I couldn’t thank them enough for the entertainment they provided the boys of our two-family enclave this weekend at Camp Wilderness Boy Scout Camp in Minnesota. Though it got a little noisy at times on the bottom level of the cabin where the extra mattresses were stored, I’m pretty sure that at one point or another, every last boy-child sharing the space (six in all) took part in seeing the many ways a cot mattress can be manipulated.

This is the kind of thing you do when you’re not "plugged in" 24-7. You find other ways to bide your time, and the way I see it, it’s all good, even the more raucous moments of rough-housing. As my mom-to-all-boys friend Mary pointed out to me in the past, this is the way male children in particular exhibit love – through body-slams with a few yelps and screeching thrown in for effect.

I, for one, was spectator, not initiator or player, in this seemingly ongoing game of mattress mayhem. But the play of our boys wasn’t altogether different than what I was experiencing internally during our weekend in the woods.

For me, living unplugged for a few days was like falling into a vast vat of pillows, and I was in no hurry to surface. As I fell further and further into the well of offline loveliness, I could feel my body giggling with relief.

As for how the weekend affected my writing, what I can say with certainty is that the writing life is dead if we are not engaging somehow with life itself. The plugged-in world can feed us information, offer insight and help keep the channel of our writing flowing. But if it’s only the plugged-in world we encounter, I’m fairly certain that in time, the well will run dry.

Writing is as much about the moments we spend away from screens and pen and paper as those we spend in their company. Does a visual artist only create while in front of a canvas with palette in hand? Only through actively participating in the real world can art erupt from the center of the soul.

Our weekend in the woods gave me something I could not have gotten from the ordinary alone. I curled up with a book I’ve wanted to read for years, just for the pleasure of it. I mingled unencumbered with nature, which had an enlivening effect on dulled senses. I focused exclusively on the relationships right in front of me. And I delightedly shared in food preparation for a crew of fourteen with a forever friend.

All of this culminated in the last evening, when I could not fall asleep. Somehow, by getting away, I’d come upon a mental break-through regarding a project I’ve been stewing over for a quite a while now. I also experienced an epiphany regarding another situation that is equally important.

In other words, by stepping out of the box of ordinary life, my creative spirit was released in a way that was not possible previously. Just as my boys had found new ways to burn energy without the lure of being plugged-in, in a sense I, too, was jumping on mattresses, building forts, and seeing ordinary things in a new way.

Had I not had that time in a cabin in the woods with my loved ones, I might never have learned the raw truth: It’s not just a plain old mattress after all.

How imperative is it to the writing life to step into another world every once in a while, even for a short time? Where are some places you’ve gone to help you see things in a new way?

Oh, and don’t forget: Next Wednesday, guest writer and children’s author Lisa Moser will be our second "Spotlight’s On…" featured interviewee. I promise, you won’t regret stopping by to read the insight Lisa has offered to share with us!

(If you didn’t catch them Monday, you can see more photos of our recent Camp Wilderness adventure here.)