Creativity does not obey a time table

“I don’t understand why it’s taking you so long to finish writing that story,” groused my husband this evening.  “You’ve been working on it off and on for the past couple of years.”

“Sure you do,” I replied waving my hand in the direction of our back yard.

A blank stare.  “No, I don’t.”

“Two words Sweetie, fish pond.”

“Oh…yeah.  I guess I do at that.”

In September of 2003, Hurricane Isabel damaged an 80 foot White Oak tree in our backyard.  It was a wonderful tree and we had hoped that given time, perhaps the tree would re-seat itself and continue to thrive.  The winds were so bad that the tree’s movement had caused the ground to “pouf” up above where the roots lay underground as far out as three feet from the trunk and left it slightly leaning towards our home, which was a mere 30 feet away from the tree.  (You do the math.)  The arborist who came out to inspect the damage and determine if the tree could be saved gave us the sad news and a very strong recommendation to take the tree out sooner rather than later if we were fond of our house.

Two weeks later, I found my husband in the backyard staring at the space where the tree had been.  It was rather sad to look at the barren spot where beautiful old tree had stood.  We talked about how bare that area of the yard was and what we could plant around the stump to make it attractive.  After a few moments of silence, he threw an arm across my shoulders.  “Ya know,” he said, “once we grind up this stump and dig out the roots, we could put a small fish pond here.”

And so began what we call the tale of the fish pond.

It started with his researching ponds while we put aside the money to get the stump ground up.  He researched drop in ponds, build it yourself ponds, and having someone else come do it for you ponds.  He began researching the types of plants and fish he wanted to put in this pond.  When September 2004 rolled around and we still hadn’t hired someone to grind up the stump, but he had reams of notes and hand-drawn sketches of what he had in mind.  He knew what plants we’d have in and around the pond.  He knew what sort of fish we’d have in the pond (goldfish to start – Koi as we gained experience), and he knew that he wanted to dig it out himself and build the pond with a custom liner to follow the footprint left by the tree.  He even bought a garden statue that he felt would be a key element in the design.

The discovery that we were expecting again in September of 2005 diverted our attention, along with any funds we had on hand to grind up the stump or start buying pond building materials.  Then we decided to put an addition onto our house after our second child arrived in 2006, so the stump grinding/pond building was put off another year.  In September of 2007, we finally hired someone to grind up the stump and my husband decided that none of his original drawings of the shape of the pond would fit the footprint left once the stump was gone, and with a new shape to work with, he had different ideas about how the landscaping should look, so back to the ideation stage he went.

In the fall of 2008, he finally started digging.

Somewhere along the way, the pond size grew from a small quaint pond to something that is going to require at least an 11 by 21 foot liner, a king’s ransom in water lilies and assorted other plants, electrical wiring to run the granite and slate waterfall he plans to make from the excavated dirt and all the granite and slate he’s salvaged from neighborhood clean ups and trips to the dump, as well as solar lighting “accent” pieces.  I’m leaving that last one alone because I never thought to hear the words “accent pieces” uttered from my husband’s lips without that distinctly male “snort” that every man uses when confronted by throw pillows and knickknacks.

He’d dig a little bit every day for a few weeks and then the weather, or kids activities, or work would get in the way.  Some days he just didn’t feel like digging.  Some days, he changed his mind completely about how the pond should look and he’d go back to his drawings or research to see if he could find a better idea.  Sometimes months would pass without any digging and when he got back to it, he’d find that the passage of time had filled the hole with leaves and clutter that had to be cleared out before he could begin to dig again.

Over the years, Joe has taken a good amount of ribbing from friends, family, and neighbors about our “pond” – no, he isn’t trying out low cost funeral planning, the kids are not taking up mud wrestling as a sport, and it isn’t a crude tiger pit to deal with the neighbor’s dog who likes to jump fences and leave, er, presents for the unwary.  Any time someone is stumped about a gift to give him, they get him a gift certificate to the nearby garden center that has a specialty section for backyard ponds or a book on backyard ponds and landscaping.  Even the kids had long ago lost interest in helping Daddy dig out the fish pond, figuring it would always be that one project Dad is forever working on but never quite gets finished.  Kind of like some of Mommy’s stories.

Four years, two pick-axes, three shovels, and an incredible amount of patience later, I came home the other night to something that actually looks like it might become a fully operational fish pond before the end of September.

Maybe, when he’s finished, I can take my laptop outside and find an inspiring spot to finish the last few chapters by the waterfall with the solar lighted accent pieces.

Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead writes paranormal romance among other genres. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing ( or


Filed under Mairead Wapole, writing

5 responses to “Creativity does not obey a time table

  1. I mourn the loss of your oak tree and share a laugh with your neighbors over the long delayed fish pond. “Life is what happens while you are making other plans.” And this is the reason some stories/projects never quite get beyond the hole in the ground stage! 🙂

  2. I loved this, Mairead. Thanks for the chuckle! Can’t wait to hear about the finished products, pond and book.

  3. Loved your story. Our “fishpond” was completed a little faster but it only measured two feet by one, and was more of a frog-puddle in the end. Still, the boys were pretty proud of it.

  4. We at Second Wind understand that creativity requires great patience. Which is why we have been patient for four years … waiting for the sequel to a Love Out of Time–anytime.

  5. I had many chuckles and laughed out loud at your “accent pieces” comment. We built two ponds in our backyard some years ago, with a stream running from the upper to the lower pond. We got bigger flat slate rocks for the edges, and many other rocks–some huge as our “accent pieces”. We planted a variety of flowers, ground covers, etc. Then 3 years ago, we decided to remove the lower pond and stream, and just keep the upper pond to reduce the upkeep work (and mosquito breeding ground). I love the sound of the small waterfall. We have goldfish which grow over the summer. My sister asked what we did with them in the fall. I told her, “We filet them and eat them.” She got a slightly scared look on her face before she realized I was kidding 🙂

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