Writing retreat update….

Writing retreat update. So, Kev and I decided last year that we both wanted to spend more time working on writing and math, that we were having an inexplicably hard time doing so at home, and we should think about budgeting for other options. For a time, we flirted seriously with the idea of converting our garage into a coachhouse, with an upstairs studio workspace, but that is a v. expensive proposition, and at least for now, it's tabled.

We actually rent out part of our garage right now to a neighbor, and once the weather improves, I think I may actually ask her if she'd be willing to park outside on our parking pad instead for a few months, so we can try putting a couch and table and chair in the garage and see whether going out there to work is actually feasible. I mean, it's kind of dingy, so not the most inspiring space. But it's separate, which may be key, and it does have windows. Small, dingy windows, but still.

I don't know why Kevin's having trouble working at home, but for me, it's a focus issue. When I'm here, there are a thousand little ping-y voices coming at me. The kids laundry needs to be put away and that reminds me that Anand's still missing a glove and I should swing by the store and pick him up another and while I'm down at Target, he needs sand for the bottom of his Christmas present punching bag, so I should stop at Home Depot too, and speaking of sand, maybe the kids are still young enough to enjoy a sandbox, and we built those veggie beds last year and it wouldn't be hard to build them a sandbox for now that could be converted into a veggie bed when they get older, oh, but before I forget about clothes entirely, I need to get Kavi to try on those yoga pants she needed for Irish dance, because I'm definitely going to need to hem those before class next Tuesday, and Anand already pulled the string out of her new Irish dance shoes, so I need to go upstairs and find a tiny safety pin I can use to help pull the string through the loops...

...etc. and so on. Kev seems to do okay going into his office and shutting the door, but I am really bad at that. Which is why our household generally runs on rails, because I have this narrative running in the back of my head all the time, and all my spare hours are filled with keeping it all going smoothly. I do like that guests come and stay with us and say things like, "Your house is so well-appointed!" It is, and I take pleasure and comfort in that. But I've been doing this for a while, and really, the house is pretty done at this point, it can certainly survive me not thinking about it 24-7, but when I'm at home, I can't seem to shut it off.

I need to try, because really, adding a coachhouse is a very expensive project, not to be undertaken unless absolutely necessary. But in the interim, we decided we could afford to budget a little bit for Airbnb during the month, so I could get away for a few days and do some concentrated thinking / writing. We did it three times last fall, and I'm in the midst of one now. And we're doing it a little differently this time, which is why I'm bothering to write all this up.

Instead of going away for a weekend, when prices are high, I've negotiated a lower rate for a mid-week rental. It was originally supposed to be Mon - Wed morning, when I went off to teach, but I was being so productive that we decided to extend it, so it ended up running from Mon @ 1 p.m. (when the space was ready after its weekend guests) to Thurs @ 6 p.m. I'm renting an entire apartment, because while I could work in the bedrooms I tried renting last fall, it was very constricting. It's much better to have the privacy and the space to pace and the kitchen to cook in and not worry that I'm bothering someone if I turn up the heat or shower in the middle of the night or have a dance party in the living room. I didn't actually do the last one, but it's nice to know I could. You never know when your novel will need a dance party.

Oddly enough, I barely slept there. By 8 p.m., I was usually exhausted of writing, with my hands and arms starting to ache and my brain wiped, so I came home to help Kev with the kids' bedtime, and then just stayed home to sleep, and then in the morning, got them up and off to school, so he didn't have to get up hours before work.

So what I'm really renting is a daytime workspace, and if I could find one of those in Oak Park (because proximity is key), possibly to share with other local writers, that might be the ideal long-term solution. I'm not sure. But on the other hand, last night, I was exhausted at 6:30 p.m., and climbed into the apartment's bed and wrote from there and fell asleep there, which was convenient. Kev would have dealt with the kids this morning if I didn't come back, but as it turned out, I was awake at 5 and working not long after, so it was easy enough to swing back over here at 6:30 and deal with getting them up and out; a 45-minute break was fine. And then I went back to work.

The whole thing has been super-productive -- I made huge progress on the novel, doing the kind of revision I'd been failing to do in small chunks of distracted time at home. I finished revisions to one essay and sent it out; I'm almost done with revisions to a second essay, and planning to submit that by tomorrow. I edited an anthology call, and it'll probably go out tomorrow too. I've got nine hours left today, and I'm hoping to get through another 5000 words or so of novel revision. And / or start a short story that's been percolating.

It's also been exhausting; the intensity of the writing experience has been physically really tiring, in a way I hadn't anticipated. And of course, I still had to prep for Wednesday's teaching, teach, and grade a bit in the midst of all this. (Monday was a holiday.) I don't know if I could actually do this every week, even if Kevin were up for it. But maybe every other week? Certainly once a month.

No conclusions yet. Just thinking. It's a monetary investment, renting the space (or building a studio), and I'm very grateful to have the option. We are lucky, no doubt. I feel guilty about it too, but then I keep telling myself that that's silly -- that it is perfectly reasonable to make investments in the tools you need to support your business. And for a writer, once you have a good laptop, the main tools you need are space and time. It's worth thinking about how best to get them.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *