I have a strict policy of traveling with only carry-on luggage. But this week, I boarded a plane with my trusted backpack and a suitcase the size of a small coffin.
That’s because I discovered that fat sweaters don’t like cramped quarters – and neither do imaginations. I’ll be needing both for my trip to the Finger Lakes Region of New York, where I’ll be doing a residency at the Rowland Writers Retreat, now in its second year.
For ten glorious days, I’ll be living and writing with women whose careers are inspirations to me.
This generous residency is fully funded by Pleasant Rowland, founder of American Girl, and by the Rowland Reading Foundation. It’s by invitation and it’s free for authors, except for the cost of getting to Aurora. My only obligation will be to use the precious time to work on projects that I’ve been thinking about. I will not cook a meal or walk a dog or answer emails or sign-scan-fax anything whatsoever. In short, it will be a godsend, for which I am profoundly grateful.
When the invitation came, my first thought was, unbelievably, to decline. There are a million reasons to stay home. Hadn’t I traveled too much for work? Wasn’t this just an indulgence? Couldn’t I write perfectly well in my home space? Not to mention Tía Isa at the nursing home; who would sponge bathe her or change her diapers on Sundays when the staff is thin? And there was the dog walking, too. And getting my daughter Cristina to work. And my husband’s new job. And, and, and.
I said yes anyway.
What convinced me was remembering that old feeling from early in my career, when I was almost ashamed to tell anyone that I was – or really, aspired to be – a writer. I wrote mostly in secret around my children’s schedule and my work hours. I grabbed 30 minutes here and 20 minutes there. I wrote on Saturdays or after people went to bed. And I was often exhausted. I spent so much time trying to figure out how to squeeze in a creative life around everything else.
What would it be like to write full-time, I wondered. Imagine being able to have all day to dream, draft and edit! Fantastic, I decided. A sheer marvel. Maybe even impossible.
A decade later, so much has changed. I’m in the fortunate position that I do write full time now. But one obstacle has remained. If I’m not careful, creative time continues to be at risk. I have to guard that time with my thoughts, time when I can get very still with myself and really excavate what I want to say now, at this point in life. Time to get to the heart of why I write.
So, I’m heading to that snowy, frozen place with gratitude in my heart for this opportunity to make space for my work first. I’ll have a journal, a computer, and a few vague ideas – along with all those socks and sweaters. Whatever it is that I start shaping, I hope it’s exciting and even a little scary. I am hungry to take a deep, creative breath.
I’ll post pictures when I’m home again. Until then… I am wishing you some quiet creative time, too.
A couple of Meg’s other favorite places to take a creative breath:
Where’s Meg? Check out her events calendar.