Going away for a weekend to work on my novel was the best thing I could have done for my myself and for my writing. I'd been having a little trouble finding the heartbeat of my story due to all the plates spinning in my life right now, and as most of you regular readers would know, I'm currently planning a writing retreat in Italy for next year. While I really felt like I needed some dedicated time to burrow into this book to find the energy hiding in it, I also really wanted to explore what it was going to be like to take time away from the daily grind to focus solely on the writing.
On Friday afternoon I loaded a small suitcase into the boot of my car and drove to the country.
This weekend was about so much more than just the writing. It was a way of declaring that my creative work is valuable and worthy of dedicating this special time to. It makes me happy and that's good for me. We should be giving more attention to what's good for us, right?
// Procrastination tools + tricky sabotages:
I use herbal tea not only as a wonderful way to hydrate myself, but as a procrastination tool. A scene feels a little tricky? Not deep enough? Too much telling and not enough showing? "Let's get up and make another cup of tea!"
The internet is a time leech. When I booked this weekend away, I didn't bother to check whether I'd have Wi-Fi access because I didn't plan on spending much time being connected to the internet. What I also didn't plan on was not having internet on my phone or having the shaky kind of phone reception that saw me holding my phone up to the heavens in order to get a signal. Every now and then I'd take a break and take a walk outside and I'd go to check my phone. But there was nothing to check. And I kept doing it, even though I knew that it was futile. Wow. I've come home and the first thing I did was install the Freedom app on my computer. Another option is to simply unplug the router or disconnect to Wi-Fi. Highly recommend!
What amazed me most about this disconnection is how much clearer the mind is when you're not constantly reading posts and status updates, and thinking about the things we see and read online. It puts a total different spin on the whole being present thing that I strive for in my day-to-day life and in my writing.
The disconnection also forced me to become comfortable with a less than perfect first draft by adding notes to my manuscript like: INSERT THE PROPER TERM FOR THIS HERE for points that needed more research or better word choices and so on. Instead of interrupting the writing to jump onto the internet and potentially get sidetracked for 20 wasteful minutes, these notes, the hallmark of a rough draft, mean that I've been far more productive than usual.
// Amplified knowings:
Overall, this weekend showed me how much intuition and trust is involved with writing. I was able to find the heartbeat of my story in a way that felt really natural and anything but forced. You can learn to listen to your body to know when you need to move, to pause, to continue. The best kind of writing happens when you're open and trusting what is coming out on the page. Taking the time out to only write, made all the things I know and thought I knew about writing so much clearer.
I could literally feel the difference in my body once I took a break to walk around the property and then came back to the writing afterwards. All I could hear out there were birds singing and the occasional car driving down the gravel road. There were horses in the back paddock. I'd stand there for minutes watching them, mesmerised by them. Nature has always been a big source of inspiration for me and being able to walk outside and smell the eucalyptus and let my imagination run wild while looking out at views of expansive paddocks and gum trees was very, very special and very, very refreshing and helpful to the creative process.
When I'm writing at home, it doesn't feel natural or totally comfortable to take time out to lie down and rest. On the weekend though, it became apparent what an incredible way to recharge this can be. In those peaceful moments where I drifted between wakefulness and sleep, scenes would come to me, dialogue would come to me and it was almost like I was writing without my hands on the keyboard. I'd get up and simply write what came to me in those moments of rest. This kind of thing happens to me while driving, and falling asleep at night, or washing the dishes or hanging out the washing and it's a nice reminder that we can get into that receptive state by allowing ourselves to rest.
Sometimes we need to really clear some space in a big way to get closer to the heart of our stories. When we do this, it's almost like the Universe listens...
// Serendipitous happenings:
The town I was in was one of those small and quaint Australian towns where second hand bookstores still exist. So naturally, I couldn't resist a visit to one. I'm writing a contemporary novel but it still requires a little research and there was a book I wanted to ask for which I suspected would be a total long shot, but I asked for it anyway. The man behind the counter hobbled over to a stack of books saying he remembered it, that it was a small book, and an old book with a printing date 1968, but first published back in 1913!
I bought the book, took it home and when I opened it up to flick through the pages, I found the inscription pictured below. This book is like a dictionary almost, and has nothing to do with talent or persistence at all. It has to do with an aspect of nature.
It almost feels as if in some inexplicable way this almost 50-year-old book was meant to arrive in my hands at this time, during the journey of writing this book, because as we all know, every book needs a good dose of persistence and determination.
That's why my alarm's still set for 5:00am. Gotta fit the writing in somehow, right?
Have you ever had random happenings occur like this in your life?
Have you ever taken the time away to write? What kind of experience was it for you?