Writing is challenging mental work. It's akin to putting the gray-matter through a mini-marathon or, depending on the story, a season of Survivor. Even the most prolific and tireless writer needs a period to rest, refuel, and reflect. Jane Yolen is one such writer and she calls these necessary breaks Gathering Days. A Gathering Day is one in which no active writing takes place-- no pen to paper or fingers to keys. These are days that are nonetheless active in the practice of absorbing creative energy much the way a plant soaks up sunshine on the way toward a fruitful harvest. It is a time of observation, of taking in the world, of mindful consideration and stimulation. Without them we run the risk of our cupboard becoming as bare as that of Old Mother Hubbard who nearly starved her beloved pooch to death.
My favorite Gathering Days involve being outside somewhere. A living history museum or an antique hardware shop will make me wonder, "who used this and how and why?" Lectures and art galleries and graveyards and old buildings inspire me. Spending time in the company of young people keeps my youthful memories fresh but relevant to the present. So take a day or two just to be alive in the world without guilt or worry that you aren't at your desk. After all you can't fill the cupboard without leaving the house every now and again. The final verses of "Old Mother Hubbard" tell of a well-fed pooch: This wonderful dog was Dame Hubbard's delight, He could read, he could dance, he could sing, he could write!