Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Room of My Own

I chose the Chatham Room of the Beach Rose Inn as the location for my mini writer's retreat because of the little seating area in the corner of the bedroom. Little did I know how pivotal a role this beautiful room would play when I finally decided that I was ready to blast through years of writer's block.

It wasn't the plug-in fireplace, or the Victorian styled lamp that captured my imagination - it was the idea of having somewhere to write that looked comfortable and private.

What I didn't tell you in my previous entry was how I created the perfect nest to nurture the writing child within me. I had packed my tool kit with all the ammunition I could find to do battle with my creative monsters. These tools were set up around my room within an hour of my arrival.

My printer was plugged into the socket behind my chair and the ream of recycled paper was opened.

The box containing years of novel notes
(both scribbled and printed) was organized with small post-it stickies. My word count color chart was placed on top of the pretend wood stove. It clearly showed me that I was only half way to my goal of 100,000 words.

My blue writing candle was set on one of the nesting tables opposite my wing back chair, along with a DVD about a mustang sanctuary and copy of Writer's Digest telling me to "Write Your Novel in 2009".
I cleared the antique hair brush and comb set from the top of the dresser (which concealed a TV that I never used) and laid out a display of crystals, wine, water and a photograph of John Cusack - hey, with his eyes on you all day you'd want to stay on task too!

Let's review: a  hot tub in the garden, red wine, home made chocolate, my trusted iBook (with thumb drive to back up all files) and one of my favorite actors  playing guardian to my writing schedule - what more could a girl possibly ask for?

John Cusack in person perhaps?

I felt like a child as I arranged my favorite writing tools around me, allowing myself the glorious privilege of unreserved indulgence.

I sat in the chair, then got up again to stuff a pillow behind my back. Moments after I began the unfamiliar task of moving my fingers around the yellowing keys of my lap top I decided I needed to pee.

It took me some time to settle into a rhythm of writing that did not include jumping up and down every five seconds for a pencil, my fluffy slippers, a glass of water, or a prolonged conversation with my ten inch teddy bear, who was also witnessing my evasion techniques from the seat of a wooden stool by the window.

Any fantasy that I may have had about writing brand new pages was soon dispelled by the reality of the continual review then edit cycle. I found myself reading over chapters I had written so long ago that I didn't even recognize the writing as my own. It was almost 4pm before I realized that I was hungry for lunch.

I must have been a girl scout in a past life because I'd packed whole wheat bread, peanut butter, banana's and hot chocolate packets for Wednesday and Thursday's lunch. I ate in my chair with my lap top opened on my knee.

I was officially in the flow of writing, communicating with characters who had hounded me relentlessly to just show up and listen to what they had to say. Their voices grew louder as my fingers became used to flying over the keys. I was honestly startled when I did a word count. I found a pencil and shaded in the space between 50 and 60,000 words.

I hit a wall when I had to write a new chapter that takes place in Sedona. Having been there several years ago, I realized that memory alone wasn't going to give me the color and texture I needed to complete my scenes. I closed my iBook and left the lap top fan running to cool down its hot little hardrive.

The wooden floorboards creaked under my weight as I crept down the corridor of the old Inn and down the stairs leading into the dining area and study, where a guest computer was set up.

I made hot chocolate in my favorite china cup (which I had also packed) and settled in for a web surfing session that turned into two hours of copious note-taking and photograph reviews.

By the time I was done with my research, my friend and hostess had set out a bowl of salad and homemade pizza on the dining table for supper. I continued taking notes as I ate.

It was hard to return to my room because I knew I'd have to get right back to my story. I felt tired and wanted to watch crap on television, but I also knew that the TV was one of my strongest writer's blocks. I promised myself a nice glass of wine if I wrote just one more paragraph from the research I had completed.

I soon became lost in a jumble of old and new pages because I was weaving a developing sub plot into the text I had already written. Piles of papers sprang up around me as I tried to straighten up the growing chaos in my mind.

I scribbled notes and partial sentences on the back of my synopsis, then on the back of anything that was not an official 'page' of my novel. Once again I lost all sense of time. Three hours later I closed my lap top and gave myself permission to call it a night.

Before crawling into bed, I updated my writing journal and discovered that I had written for a total of 11 hours between 7:00am and 11:30pm. I drew smiley faces and stuck colored foil stars next to each entry for that day. I don't remember how long it took me to fall asleep.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sweet Escape

Just Keep Writing...

It's been over 16 years since I gave myself the luxury of a writer's retreat. What a mistake!

I've only been here since yesterday afternoon - here being a friend's B&B in Falmouth - and I've already written 1,200 words. I would have written a lot more, but I had an article to complete about local chocolatiers, which took me close to 4 hours by the time I'd written the copy and designed the page for my online magazine. As I was writing the "must do" article, which was already well past deadline, I found the rusted doors of my creative mind begin to creak open, one millimeter at a time. Yeah, it was that slow!

The whole point in coming here was to step out of my usual routine and do nothing but work on my manuscript for 3 days. No animals to feed at 6am, no sons to negotiate with during the mad scramble to get out the door to school/work by 7:30am, no emails to reply to, no phone calls to answer, no classes to teach, no bills to pay, no leaves to rake and no mail to open...nothing to do but write, eat and sleep.

I have less than 2 months to get to 'THE END' and this was the only way I could think of to jump start my creative engine, which totally crapped out a few weeks ago. The more I tried to show up for my writing, the louder and more dramatic the distractions became. I won't list them here, but let's just say they run the gamut from personal, work and family issues, all claiming priority over one another.

'Nuff about that - I'm here now and that's all that matters.

It took a 10 minute drive into Falmouth to help me unwind after I emailed the Chocolatier's story to my editor. I felt frustrated that I'd spent so much time not writing my novel, but I was hungry and craving some of the home made chocolate I had spent all afternoon writing about.

I grabbed a buffalo chicken wrap (to go) and headed for Ghelfi's, on Main Street. As I'd predicted in my article, the woman behind the counter was delighted to chat about the history of the store and invited me to take a tour of where they made all the chocolate and candies.

It was amazing to see the giant copper kettles and collection of wooden stirring paddles in the kitchen. She showed me the family photo's of 3 generations of chocolate makers, and as I stood in the back office, absorbing the heart and soul of the chocolate world I had only imagined hours earlier, I felt my time writing about our local Chocolatiers was worth it.

I do believe in buying local, and supporting the small businesses who have been serving our community for years. I want to do whatever I can to help them keep their doors open, and if writing an article about them can help do that, even in a small way, it's worth the effort.

 I left with a box of assorted samplings - chocolate covered brittle, milk chocolate turtles, dark chocolate cranberry bark, orange creams...in my rush back to my room I missed my turn and wandered around Rte 28A in the dark, singing my heart out to Robbie Williams.

By the time I found the road where I was staying I'd talked myself into NOT taking advantage of the hot tub that was nestled into one corner of the English styled landscaped gardens because I was "too tired"...silly me. How can anyone be too tired for a hot tub?

Ten minutes later I was about to drop my robe and climb into the hot tub when I realized I'd forgotten to put on my bathing suite - I laughed all the way back to my room, kept laughing as I squeezed into my bathing suit and was still laughing as I surrendered to the jets that were churning the water around me. That would have been an epic disaster if my friend had found me wallowing in her spa completely naked - it's okay if it's your own tub, but not at a B&B for god sakes! Get a grip Nic!! I guess I was more tired than I realized...

Tired or not, I poured myself a glass of Pinot Noir, lit my blue "writing candle" and flipped open the lid of my trusted iBook. There was my manuscript, staring right back at me, asking me where the hell I had been all night? I took a deep breath and replied with two hours of non-stop writing.

I don't know how half the bottle of wine disappeared, but by midnight I was ready to crawl into bed and let my characters regroup. They woke me up at 6:30am wanting my attention. For the first time in forever I gave them exactly what they were asking for. I carried my lap top over to the bed, grabbed a bottle of water and started writing again.

Two and a half hours later and I was ready for breakfast. My friend had already set the table for me. I didn't have to do a thing except pour my coffee and juice and fill my bowl with fresh fruit, yogurt and granola.

Now that's a wonderful way to start the day!! I get to repeat this new routine tomorrow :-)

I didn't mean for this to turn into a whole chapter, so I'd best get going...