I never outgrew my fantasies of running away from home. When I was little, I wanted to leave Queens and live on a tropical island instead. Later as a teen, I imagined the pleasure of ditching my mother and renting an apartment of my very own in Manhattan. These days, I fantasize about living in Italy for a year. You know, eating, writing, drinking, writing, pedaling my bike through the hillside with a loaf of bread in the wire basket.
Sweet fantasies one and all.
In all these years, though, I’ve never managed to escape the way I hoped. One thing or another (life? money? my lack of nerve?) always seemed to get in the way.
But things are finally looking up, if on a modest scale. On the spur of the moment, four friends and I — all writers — are heading to the gorgeous mountains of Virginia. The Porches is a rambling 1854 farmhouse on the James River run by authors Bill and Trudy Hale. It offers gorgeous grounds, a private room, walking trails, WiFi, and a communal kitchen. That, and utter respect for a writer’s work. Our group’s mission: three full days of writing, interrupted only by evening meals and (if one of us has her way) cocktails by the fire.
“Pack warm socks,” a friend told me. “And be prepared. You won’t want to leave. Ever.”
I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to do something so simple and healthy as going on a writer’s retreat. I suppose I thought it would be too expensive (which I have discovered is untrue) or, more likely, that it was too indulgent to cut myself away from my life for a few days. There were all these other needs in our house, after all. Wasn’t I supposed to attend to them?
But now I’m asking a new question. If I don’t take good care of my writing life, who will? It’s a question every writer, whether published or aspiring, should tape to their bathroom mirror.
I have a January 1 deadline looming for edits of my 2013 YA release, Finding Yaqui Delgado. This is the exciting and exhausting roll-up-your sleeves stage. I’ll have to cut characters with the precision of a surgeon, or add new ones seamlessly. I’ll need to read my words aloud to see how they sound. I’ll have to fix the ending. To get it done, I need quiet and I need time to think. And by think I don’t mean about what’s for dinner.
I’ve reached that stage where I’ve learned to stop apologizing for my creative side. It’s okay to feed the part of me that is no one’s wife or mother or friend or employee or volunteer. I need to be absolutely nothing except a writer in stretchy pants for a few days.
Is this indulgent? Maybe, but I don’t care. At long last, with my sweet family’s blessing, I’m not shy about making a break for it. I’m running, folks — hair flapping, arms in the air — to do what I love most. Write.
Meg’s next appearance: Virginia Educational Media Association Conference, Thursday, Nov. 17, 6:30 pm, Library of Virginia
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I try to get away on a writers’ weekend once a year. Doesn’t have to be far. Just has to be away with a group of friends who write. I’ve also had writers’ weekends at my house. I live on Smith Mountain Lake, which is virtually deserted in the winter. Best time to be outdoors, walk in the morning, write all day, mix cocktails at 5 and dinner by 7. Early to bed or up all night chatting. Makes no difference to me. You’re welcome to join us on our next retreat…
What a great invitation!
Good luck with those edits Meg! This looks like a lovely retreat. And next year…Italy.
Wouldn’t that be something?
I loved this post, Meg! The Porches sounds like a wonderful place, and I’m so glad for you that you have this opportunity. I’m sure you’ll make the most of every minute. There’s much to be said for plucking oneself out of the familiar, and the demands of daily life. It wasn’t until I moved from Ohio to Virginia that my own writing has been, shall we say, uncorked. Enjoy!