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My Writer’s Idyll is Busy, Messy, Full Life

23 January 2017

From The Literary Hub:

A truism long held in the literary world is that the greatest gift you can give a writer is time: to daydream, to wander, to write. Every writer thinks about what their career might look like if only life’s ordinary restrictions were lifted. In my twenties, after finishing an MFA in fiction, I was lucky enough—for seven months at least—to find out. I won one of those contests you read about in the classifieds of Poets & Writers. The PEN/Northwest Wilderness Writing Residency. In exchange for an hour-a-day of routine caretaking, I got to live rent-free and alone on a 95-acre off-the-grid homestead along the Rogue National Wild and Scenic River in Oregon. There were no neighbors, just stands of Douglas fir and madrone, a logging road, a footpath to the river.

From my writing table, I had a postcard view. A pair of apple trees framed the gate of a garden, and beyond loomed a steep, forested ridge that turned from black to palest blue in the morning sun. I had a typewriter and its satisfying clack-clack-clack-ding. I had notebooks, pens, pencils. I had an idea for a novel and all the time in the world to write. The writing should have been easy.

In my first month at the homestead, however, nothing worked. My idea for a novel suddenly seemed dumb. I wrote and scratched out paragraph after paragraph. I threw my pencil across the room. 

. . . .

In life as I’d known it before traveling to backcountry Oregon my writing time had been a contrast to the distraction of family and friends and work, a kind of oasis of dreaming. In life before, I’d only needed a few hours of quiet here and there in order to listen to myself, sort out my ideas, get words down in the shape of a story. I savored my time apart and guarded it jealously against intrusion. In Oregon, that contrast fell away.

. . . .

And now that I’m a dad and a husband and hold down a full-time job (all things I’m utterly grateful for and humbled by), I don’t have as much time to write. I don’t have time for indulgences and mistakes. If I’m going to have a successful career as a writer, I have to make use of every spare minute and hour.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

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3 Comments to “My Writer’s Idyll is Busy, Messy, Full Life”

  1. Perhaps his idea for a novel IS dumb, and he doesn’t have anything to say. And perhaps if he doesn’t have anything to say, he should just shut it.

    • Woah- feeling crotchety or something? lol
      I think many writers have been there at some point- you have lots of time and can’t think of what to write. You have no time and all you wish is for that few minutes to jot the next scene down. Sometimes it’s just too quiet and you need a distraction.

      At times I’ll head to a coffee shop and the scene that I was struggling with will write itself. But I might go back and the music is too loud/distracting and I have to leave for the solitude of the house.

  2. From a left-brain right-brain perspective – left being matter-of-fact while right is deemed creative (or grey matter/white matter, whatever turns you on), we need the left brain to be comfortable in its surroundings, otherwise it tends to stay in charge fretting about where things are, and what’s that new noise? This makes it far harder to get into a right-brain creative frame of mind, the reason why, when you go away meaning to write, you are frequently less productive than when you stay in familiar territory.

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