In the spring of 2009 I was writing the first draft of Morning of the Mermaid. It was coming along swimmingly, but I wondered how much better, faster, I could write if there weren’t any distractions. What if, just for a little while, there was no housework, errands, cooking, the Kid, the Husband, and pets to deal with? What if I were all alone somewhere? How much could I get done if I could devote myself only to writing?
We have a friend who owns a resort in Three Rivers, near Sequoia National Park — Lake Elowin –basic cabins, lake, trail to the river and a lot of peace and quiet, trees and mountains. It wouldn’t cost more than the gas to get there. Going for a week to try The Great Writing Experiment was do-able. I loaded the van with all my notes, my brand new laptop, research books, and, just in case, a couple of DVD’s, and headed to the mountains.
Six hours later I was ensconced in a remote little cabin. I unloaded the van and set up my office on the kitchen table. After unpacking my bathroom necessities and the food I’d brought, I sat in front of the laptop for a few minutes. Cracked my knuckles, rubbed my hands together. Stared at the screen.
It was late afternoon, the perfect time to take a walk. I decided to do that first. It would clear my head.
When I got back I mentally rolled up my sleeves and sat down again. I had no schedule. I could eat when I wanted. I could stay up all night, writing.
But I didn’t want to stay up all night. It had been a long drive. I made myself some dinner and went to bed with a book.
The following morning was a new start. I made coffee and sat outside for a bit, drinking it and the scenery in. I felt at peace. I had done the right thing. Now, on to the book.
This story had been in my head for years, so complete I felt like all I needed to do was put my fingers on the keyboard and the words would flow out. I managed to keep it flowing for about an hour. Then I got itchy. I had to stop. It felt weird, all this quiet.
A walk down to the river seemed like a good plan. I would sit by the rolling water and imagine my mermaid in her sea. I’d make some notes. Maybe I’d meditate.
I didn’t meditate. I sat for awhile, then hiked back up to the cabin, determined to keep my butt in the chair, hands on the keyboard for the rest of the day.
That effort lasted another hour. Sleepy, a nap sounded good. And why not? There were no dogs to feed or walk, no dishes to walk, no one to be concerned with except myself.
So I took a nap.
By the next day I was starting to admit defeat. I worked a bit. I watched one of the movies I’d brought. I finished the book I’d been reading. I wandered back to the laptop and typed a few more sentences.
That night, as I finished watching the other movie, and wished I’d brought more, I wondered if maybe I should just go home. What was wrong with me?
As it turns out, I need distraction. I focus better when there’s some noise, when there are other things needing my attention. Maybe it’s because when I do sit down to write, I know I only have so much time before I’ll have to do something else. I have to be more efficient.
I went home the next day. I finished the mermaid book and it didn’t take long at all. I found if I had the TV on, with some show I’d already seen, I would drift into my imagination. My mind would come alive with ideas and my fingers would fly over the keyboard. Time would pass and I’d hardly notice. Go figure.
So much for the Great Writing Experience. What works for you?