We are nearing the end. Soon we will have to bid farewell to wide plank floorboards, the leaky kitchen sink, the view of lounge chairs in the sun (on which we do not sit becuase we are writers writing), the quiet, the peace, the stillness.
But I am not leaving empty handed. And while it’s tempting to slip some of the amazing artwork on these walls into my purse, that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about knowledge. Because while this week was very productive, next time we do this I’m going to be even better prepared. Here’s my advice to myself. Perhaps it’s useful to you, too.
- If you come to this particular house, don’t bring any books. There are plenty. Also, you are here to write, not to read. Put down that book and get back to work.
- Running every day and yoga on the lawn is not a waste of an hour because it will make you more efficient during writing time.
- Don’t be the kind of person who checks facebook and twitter all the time. Once in a while is okay. Also, people can tell when you’re on those sites and they will wonder why you are not working. Let this be your prophylactic.
- Updating a blog totally counts as writing time.
- Checking your stats does not.
- Find your corner early. Mine is in the living room crouched over a wooden bench on which my computer rests. Sometimes I sit in the green leather chair. Sometimes I sit on the floor. Wherever you work best, make it yours. Growl at anyone who tries to make you move. But if you go on a retreat with the right person (see #9), you won’t have to worry about squatters.
- Find your window early. Because you have to look up sometimes, and it’s best to look at something lovely but not so lovely that you want to gaze endlessly.
- Don’t go hungry but don’t eat more than usual. This is not a vacation. This is working. Would you eat Pop Tarts at the office? Of course not. Don’t eat them on your writing retreat. (Don’t eat them ever–they’re not good for you.)
- People who you can be alone with are rare and valuable. Find some and hang on to them.
- Grant yourself an evening out. Just one. Call it research.
- Don’t be bothered by anything. It takes work to get to Maine. It’s hard to leave behind your job and family. Make those favors and logistics worth it. Don’t be bothered by stupid stuff like low water pressure. This house has great water pressure, by the way. But if the water pressure were low, it would still be the perfect place to write.
- Bring painkillers, because writing for ten hours a day hurts.
- Miss your people back home. This kind of opportunity doesn’t come around often, unless you’re a certain type of person, which I am not. Miss them and delight in them when you return.
- Make plans for next year. Retreats are definitely an annual kind of thing.
We have one more night here, and we are going out to dinner soon (see #10) to celebrate all of our productivity. Goodbye house. Goodbye time. Goodbye bowls of mush.