The Lonely Cabin Myth: Writing in the Middle of Real Life
Have you said it, too?
The stuff of life: work, relationships, and schedules, conspire to steal time that we'd rather spend writing. We lament that our manuscript lies unfinished, that words are added to it at an incremental pace. If only we could write in solitude. Surely then, the words would fly from our fingertips, and we'd be as prolific as James Patterson.
But here's the thing. There have been a few times when I've had the wonderful opportunity to get away for a weekend just to write. No kids. No phone. No schedule. No interruptions.
And few words on the page.
There's nothing more frustrating than having the time to write, and feeling like you've wasted it. I learned two things on those "writing getaways". One is that I write more when I have to fight for my time to write. The other is that I need to be in touch with real life to inspire my writing.
Fight to write. When I'm in the middle of driving the kids to an activity, or running errands, or fixing dinner, I often wish I was writing instead. The mild frustration I experience actually makes me think about my story more, than if I were sitting in front of the computer screen.
While my schedule keeps me away from my chair, I end up brainstorming scenes, or ways to deepen my characters. Of course, this manuscript meditation requires me to jot a couple notes so I won't forget what I dreamed up. And these notes start my engines the next time I have the opportunity to write. No more staring at a blank page.
Having a busy schedule makes me appreciate the bits of time I carve out to write, and forces me to actually use those stolen moments. Moments like waiting in the orthodontist's office. During a child's sports practice. The minutes I'm waiting to pick them up, because they're "not done yet".
I'm learning to snatch these moments for writing whenever they appear, because no one is going to hand me an entire writing day. It's up to me to find them.
Real life, real writing. As much as sequestering yourself away sounds appealing, pretty soon your writing suffers. Being alone has advantages, but solitude rarely generates new and different ideas.
It's when we rub shoulders with people of all descriptions, attitudes, and accents that our character descriptions get more colorful. It's the daily news we hear that inspires side plots and twists. It's the situations we experience, the world of nature we pass through, the sounds that hit our ears that encourage ideas for our stories.
So, save the cabin retreats for the editing process. Embrace the crazy life that surrounds you. It's all fodder for stories.