Creative moments

I have my most sustained periods of actual writing – not note taking, not research, but actual creative composition — on the weekends. I generally rise in the wee small hours (3:00 a.m.) when the house is dark and quiet, and, after brewing myself a pitcher of that true nectar of the gods, iced tea, I sit at the dining room table with my laptop aglow before me and try to tease more fictional world out of the welter of my poor brain.

Nonetheless, even with this wholesale robbery from my pillow time, I can only expect about three hours of solitude before the household begins to stir and interruptions flow. (The dogs, of course, rise with me and each time must be persuaded that it is not play time and that even being let out the door is a bother, so be quick about it!) I generally begin by going over my notes, or making further notes, and generally warming up. This may involve some wholly unsanctioned and thoroughly unproductive forays onto the internet, ostensibly to “research” this or that but really just to put off the hard work ahead of me.

My productivity in these pre-dawn hours varies. I might get a couple thousand words down in that time (first draft words, of course), or I might struggle for a mere five hundred. I never know, but nearly every time, about the time the household has begun stirring, I am at that point where the words are finally flowing and I can’t type fast enough.

Sigh.

What’s a writer to do? I don’t really want to rise any earlier on my weekend mornings. (My weekend afternoons are bleary enough as it is.) And I’m not one of those who can sit down for a free half hour in the day to put down more words. (My creative engine, it seems, needs to warm up.) I need more time than that to get into the creative space sufficiently. Sure, I might fix a plot point or supplement some observation with just the right adjective, but I can’t create in such a short span.

If you’ve read this humble blog long enough, you know that my wife and I have a small cabin in the woods about two hours from town. I have often flirted with the notion of taking myself down there (alone) for a weekend and devoting myself to nothing but writing. I actually tried this once, and I was pleased with what little I got done, but that was only one cold morning, and I couldn’t sit at the keyboard without shivering. (Yes, I know that writers in freezing garrets are practically a pedigree in this business, but somehow I don’t see myself in that role.) The cabin is truly rustic. It has no plumbing (not so much of a problem) or electricity (which is a bit of a problem when you have a laptop with a battery life that is a ridiculous fraction of the hours an entire weekend can offer but actually a benefit if you’re prone to internet diversions). There are two beds, a nap often being an essential prerequisite for creative writing, and several comfortable chairs. There is solitude (except when there isn’t — my neighbor loves to come over for an aimless chat). I’ve thought about taking some days off in the middle of the week to sneak down to the cabin for this kind of sustained writing adventure, but with weddings and graduations and short trips looming, who has the ability to devote scant vacation days to something as self-indulgent as writing?

Nor is the cabin without its own manner of interruptions. The wildlife there chatters and calls. The trails through the trees beckon. There is always some chore that needs to be done. Sitting and staring into the middle distance is so much easier there. And just like the internet, the lure of these diversions is dangerous.

When I am able to write, I can generally expect to get a couple thousand words down in a week. That’s a pretty good pace, I think. But what if I were able to write for twice as much sustained time? Would I write twice as much more? Or would the quality of my words (already dubious) begin to falter?

I guess the point of all of this babbling is that I’m trying to find ways to steal more time for writing in my week.

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