Discussing the possibility of purchasing a piece of property this weekend, my Beloved and I were contemplating potential uses for a 10-acre wooded rural space with its fixer-upper 1,000+ square foot house. Because it’s 30 minutes away, the distance was a huge sticking point for him. The ten acres (and the bargain selling price) appealed to me. Mostly in jest, I suggested it would make an ideal writer’s retreat, a place to steal away to and be wholly focused on writing!
The notion of an actual writer’s retreat is something of a standing joke for the two of us. I think of the numerous writers I’ve known through the years, several of whom wrote novels while sitting at their kitchen tables … between the hours of 4 and 6 a.m. before they trundled off to their day jobs.
I’ve known others, however, who cling to the romantic model of a secluded cottage nestled in the forest, a light dusting of snow on the ground and a generous benefactor delivering meals thrice daily with only the most minimal amount of polite conversation appended to the exchanges. Romantic notions of the cloistered writer are appealing. (I’d be lying to pretend otherwise.)
In my experience, though, this romantic view of the writer’s retreat doesn’t resemble reality (my reality). I have an upstairs dormer with a lovely view of the meadows and cattle. I didn’t find it an inviting location for a writing desk. I also have a downstairs writing desk with a different view of meadows, but after I spent hours shopping for the desk and got everything set up, I found it didn’t really work for me. My most preferred spot for writing is a living room chair where I can sit comfortably and spread resources on the tables, balancing iPad or laptop in my lap. It’s far from “ideal” and hardly what I’d call “romantic,” but somehow it works for me.
There are times when I imagine how productive I could be if sequestered for a week at a time (or even a long weekend). That’s the imaginative side of my brain talking. Then the pragmatic side of my brain interjects the question: if you’re not being productive here and now, what makes you think it would be different in a setting like Saratoga Springs?
Naturally, I submit far too often to my pragmatic side!
Instead of fantasizing about the romantic setting, I’ve spent the greater part of my writing life moving inward to occupy and arrange the furniture for my mental writer’s retreat … that is, training my brain for quiet and creative thought so that, whether I’m seated at the kitchen table with others coming and going and a television droning away from another room or sitting quietly on the back porch, my concentration will prove sharp and ready. I think of this as a discipline, developed by habit and not as subject to external distractions. For writing poetry (so far), this has been a workable formula.
The distraction of children isn’t as daily (and nightly) as it used to be, but I thought I’d pull out a poem written in those days. When I wrote this poem, I was in the midst of preparing multiple entries for a contest and my Beloved had graciously taken the children out from underfoot and closed a door to give me some separation … and quiet(?). The door wasn’t a weighty impediment (I could still hear everything happening on the other side)! Looking back, though, this poem evokes sweet memories of four little ones who blessed (and continue to bless) my life.