Monday, January 11, 2016

Loneliness and the long distance writer

Over the holiday period I was fortunate to have the offer of a log cabin for a writing stint. Just an hour or so out of town, the idea seemed perfect to me.Tucked away in a eucalypt forest beneath a magnificent rocky outcrop, just me on my ownsome with no neighbours in sight and no convenience store just around the corner (none for miles in fact). My expectations were high. I would arrive with all the food I needed, and dig in. I would write all day and all night, I would not allow myself to be distracted by anything. I would turn off my phone and I pad and luckily with no wifi I wouldn't have all the distractions of Facebook, YouTube and email to lead me astray. Besides it was Xmas Hols and all would be quiet in the virtual world.

It started out well and ended quite well too. I managed to reread my draft manuscript, make notes for rewrites, make lists and maps of where to next, put all the existing scenes on one set of index cards, put all scenes I need to add on another set of index cards, make jottings and notes and forays into the new bits. I had relevant reading materials too, so in my non-writing times I could lounge about and immerse myself in the world of my book.

But, despite all this, I still managed to fall into a hole which opened into a tunnel which opened into such a huge underground cave of lonlieness and negative self talk, I could have been buried alive if it were not for the advice of a number of experts who came to my rescue.

Experts you ask? Where did I find them? Wasn't I way out in the woods with no wifi?

When I realised things were getting desperate I turned my trusty phone into a hot spot and called on the gods of the internet: The Ted Talkers, the Homespun Gurus, The Wise Women, the Spiritual Soothsayers.

I thought I would share some dos and don'ts and new found wisdom with you in case you need it on your next writer's getaway.

DON'T start your personal writer's retreat on Christmas Day. Even though you had Xmas a week earlier and think you will be ok being alone on the one day of the year when everyone is not only playing happy families but sending pics to each other about how happy their happy families are, it is not a good idea.

If you already spend most of your days alone as writer in the city, DON'T assume that spending even more time alone in the country, will lead to writing bliss. It won't. If anything it will be much harder.

DON'T trick yourself into believing that solitary confinement is neccessary for the writing process.It's not.

DO take an array of delicious treats to reward yourself with when you have a good day on the page.

DON'T eat them all on the first day after you fail to get any words on the page.

DON'T listen to the voices that tell you:
you can't write
you are pathetic
you are alone
you are a fake
you are a fraud
nobody likes you
nobody loves you
nobody wants you
nobody cares about you

DON'T be afraid to have a good cry when it all gets too much. Crying releases toxins and has many health benefits. Read more here.

DO program yourself when you wake and several times a day, that:
today the writing will flow
today the writing is effortless
today brilliant ideas come to you
today you write all day and into the night and can't stop
(If this works and you do write all day and all night and you are afraid you will never sleep again, DON'T worry, it won't last).

If your writing getaway heaven is slowly turning into a writing getaway hell, DON'T worry. Just remind yourself it happened last time and you survived. At least you are alive with a roof over your head and you will live to write another day.

If you are gripped by fear, any kind of fear, DO watch this clip with rocket scientist, Olympia LePoint on reprogramming your brian to overcome fear.

DON'T forget that writing is a lonely business. It's one of the hazards of the job. You have to look after yourself when you write. Psychologist Guy Welch tells you how here.

DON'T get cold feet and think that writing is not your life purpose. If you have any doubts you can check them here.

DO keep going back to the wise ones who have helped you in the past. DON'T forget it takes courage and bravery to write, to face the blank page and yourself. Listen to my favourite wise woman,  buddhist nun, Pema Chodron,  reminding us of this very fact.

Happy Writing Getaway!!