Imagine a cabin. Or a stone cottage. Imagine the only sounds you hear are the wind whipping through the trees and birds chirping. Imagine the fresh, earthy smell of the woods after a storm. Imagine solitude. Imagine writing without interruption. Now, imagine you’re wearing a cardigan and rocking a stern pout. You know, the look that implies you’re giving your story a good scolding. You smugly sip coffee and celebrate your own genius. Sounds like a fluffy dream, right? A little too perfect. A little too staged.
But before you write this fantasy off, hear me out. What I’m proposing can be doable regardless of what is going on in your life. I’m talking about literally carving out vacation time to focus on writing without interruption. Namely, doing a residency or going on a retreat is what comes to mind for most people, but if that is not an option there are other ways to find solitude to write.
The point is to get out of the house! Get out of your familiar space, which is teaming with distractions. Laundry can wait. And the dishes for that matter. If you have a job, you’ll likely have to get creative with your time. And if you also have kids, that can be an added challenge. In this case, ask you partner or a friend for an hour of solitude and then run like mad for the door!
If you read Poets & Writers, the March/April issue had some great suggestions for alternative writing spaces. If you have the time, but not a lot of money, P&W suggests going camping, or begging to borrow, at no fee, a relatively isolated space from a close friend (a cabin, houseboat, submarine. O.K., that might be a little extreme). They also suggest just writing outside. Take a hike and write when you reach the top. Find a nice tree at the park. Go to the library. Or if you have a shed, hide out in there. (Though in my own experience, I’ve found still being present on my own property counterproductive, as small creatures can still find me. And do. Even with the doors to the studio locked!)
There are always bus rides (hail, Jeff Zentner) or train rides if you are fortunate enough to live near one. Though the latter might cost you a pretty penny. I can’t imagine how fun it would be to write on a train. And there’s also the perk of saying you birthed your story on a train.
However, IF you are in a place that you can take several days or weeks to yourself, I highly recommend a residency. Some are just weekend long retreats, others a month or longer. There are countless writers and artist colonies all over the world. Short spurts of isolation to write are great, but once you get on a role, if can be very difficult to stop.
And, yes, they cost money!
But don’t write of residencies for monetary reasons. Many writer’s colonies and retreats offer fellowships that you can apply for. In fact, Rivendell is offering fellowships, funded through the SAF, for parents of children 12 and under. For those who don’t meet this requirement, Rivendell also has other fellowships available for first timers. (If you can’t tell from this post and my last, I absolutely love this place! Hence the PR. Though, let it be noted, all the gushing is my own unpaid enthusiasm.)
Whatever way you decide to “get outside” is one step closer to consciously choosing writing. Henry David Thoreau “went to the woods…to live deliberately…”, and I am certain he was onto something.