Saturday, August 21, 2010

RETREAT? Or Charge Ahead?

I wrote this yesterday morning. I did take a walk this morning. We'll see how long that lasts.

I’m sitting here, on my last morning of summer camp.

One of the authors I know has a small house down near Delaware Bay, surrounded by preserved farmland and tiny villages that haven’t changed in over two hundred years. You can’t get a cell signal here, or connect to the Internet, or even tune in the Phillies games on the radio. The sound of a car on the road is rare. The chorus crickets and locusts, with an occasional by songbird or bullfrog solo, are often the only sounds for miles.

This friend invited me and another writer down to her place this past week for a sort of writers’ retreat. Most mornings, I got up with the sun and took a quiet walk down the road (nice and flat, with no tiring hills like my neighborhood). We all spent mornings and afternoons writing, getting our own breakfasts and lunches, then we’d cook supper together (no slackers we— for example, chicken with peppers and apricots one night, fresh ratatouille and lean grilled burgers another, and no dearth of yummy Jersey tomatoes and ice cream). Evenings usually meant another walk, or a chat out on the screened in porch, then more writing before bed.

I got loads of work done, easily ten times my usual output over 5 days. But now I’m about to go home.

I saw a item on the news a week or two ago about a drug rehab clinic in one of the worst neighborhoods of a city. The guy who ran the place said he noticed that when people from his neighborhood were sent away for rehab, most did fine until they came home again. Then they’d get in with the same crowd and revert to all their old bad habits. So he opened his clinic right in the middle of the neighborhood, to help his patients deal with every day life.

I was thinking this morning that this can apply to all sorts of other activities besides drug rehab. People used to go to spas to diet and improve their health, only to come home and get stressed all over again, and rip into Sara Lee cheesecakes for breakfast.

Me? Well, I’ll bring home a slew of good intentions to walk each morning and write for hours, but once the distractions start—phone, email, Internet, bills to pay, plumbing mishaps, family issues, etc.—how will I not revert to my old habits of reacting to life as it hits me rather than being at least somewhat in control of it?

So maybe a writers’ retreat right in my own home wouldn’t be a bad idea. Though don’t ask me how it would work.

Still, it was a lovely, lovely week.

Read Robin Hathaway's books. She deserves it, if only for playing host to me. (Although they ARE good books.)

Thanks, Robin.


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