Last week I gave myself a three-day writing retreat before the onslaught of the spring season (ballet) and just life getting busier after the holidays are past and we all remember that life isn’t just about seeing Christmas lights and eating cookies and giving/getting presents (or is it? Let’s call a vote).
If you ever find an opportunity to give yourself a writing retreat (whether it be in your own home or somewhere else) I highly suggest it. We all need time to refocus, calm down, and breath through writing instead of madly pounding out words between dance class and researching agents and cooking chili and answering emails (me).
I also highly suggest not plugging in space heaters into old houses (first night of my retreat ended up turning into a monster movie with thankfully no monsters other than some dead spiders hanging over the switchboard thing in the basement).
What did I learn/gain on this retreat? What happened when I plugged in the old space heater??
1: Past and passed are two very different words and apparently I have been using them interchangeably my entire life (like….no one noticed this before????? I NEVER noticed this before???). I was working through my near final edits for Sliver and suddenly was like “passed….or past….or passed….no, it’s past. Or is it passed?? Is past even a word??? Is pass?? Are they all just a jumble of letters???” I ended up clarifying the difference and had to go through my entire MS to fix EVERY past and passed because they were. all. wrong.
2: Environment and rest really do make a difference when writing. The less distraction my enviroment has, the more I can focus. And the more rested I am, the less likely I’ll end up staring blankly at the keyboard. So if you’re wondering whether or not to take that nap, take that nap.
3: When you just begin to think you have enough WIPs and don’t need any new story ideas for a while….a new one will come along. Whoopydaisy.
I was writing in my “writing journal” (one of those big, thick leather ones that look like some ancient manuscript written by the elves of yore) and just started writing??? (it’s also in 1st person present tense which I NEVER EVER write in and I wonder what is happening to me???? Where did my 3rd person past tense go???) and it’s about…..
Well, it’s not really about her, but it does involve a Snow Queen. (“INTO THE UNKNOWN!!!” No! Not that kind of snow queen!!! She might be evil. Might be. Haven’t decided yet. There’s also a war going on.)
And I also made doodles.
But of course the most important thing is my Monster Movie Moment (as my mom said “consider is experience for writing”).
I’m alone in a 1940’s house (it’s the cutest thing ever and I want to live there). It’s around 10:00 pm and I just finished getting the upstairs bedroom ready. I head downstairs and turn off a few lights, leaving some lights on (since I’m alone). I head into the bathroom, and as one does before going to bed. The bathroom light is on (as one also does) as I open the door to leave.
All the lights in the house are off.
I’m not sure what I did. I didn’t scream. I’m not sure I really did anything but start frantically flipping the switch in the hall like an idiot. Nothing happened.
I dash to the kitchen and grab a flash light out of a drawer and run back to the bathroom where the light is still on (why????). I start calling my sister (numerous times).
“Hey! What’s up!” she says or something to the effect of thinking everything’s normal and sunshine and rainbows and not understanding that a blood thirsty beast is out to get me.
I end up being told to call Dad. We facetime. I’m in the dark, he’s in the dark (in bed…and apparently decided not to turn a light on?? Like facetime is really creepy when it’s in the dark). With my phone in one hand and my flashlight in the other. I start to head into the basement.
The unfinished basement. The pitch black, unfinished basement with low ceiling and cold cement walls and floors. I carefully make my way down, the flashlight eerily shaking light in front of me. I spot the switchboard thing.
It’s in the farthest back corner of the basement.
I grit my teeth and continue. (In reality I scream inside and hurry across the floor hoping that if I move fast the zombies won’t see me and I won’t see them). I get to the switchboard.
“Ok, I’m here.”
There are two switchboard box things. Cobwebs and dried, dead spiders hang over them. I open both boxes, the hinges creak and clang in the silence. Dad tells me to flip all the switches on and off again. All of them.
I’m going to be down there for a bit.
At first I did the cool put the flashlight in my mouth thing since I have the phone in one hand, but I have a really bad gag reflex and so that didn’t last long.
Clang, clang. I slam all the switches on and off. One box done. I go to the other. The first switch at the top reads MAIN. It’s big.
Dad, “switch that one.”
I swallow. I am now about to reboot everything and will probably let the Raptors out in the process. I switch it off.
The house goes silent.
I switch it back on and things begin to hum again. I quickly switch through the rest, though some get stuck along the way. After the last one I turn on a light. It works!!
Then I turn it off and frantically sprint up the steps ne’er to return again.
(which I actually did in the morning because once again the space heater blew everything out).
We just don’t know why the bathroom light stayed on.
Let’s talk folks! Have you ever taken a writing retreat? Have you learned anything about writing/your writing this month? More importantly, have you ever been alone in the house when the lights went out?