everything and nothing

I’m back from my weekend in the woods where I intended to get some focused writing done. It turned out that my time there was nothing like I had imagined yet everything that I had hoped for.

I have no plumbing or electricity at the cabin. The former is not really a problem, but the latter was a challenge. And it was a challenge I thought I had conjured a solution for. My dear little laptop will operate on battery power for about three hours, which is sad enough, but that’s a different gripe. Three hours of work is hardly enough time to warm up to writing, much less to give over a whole weekend to. My solution was to use a storage battery I have had for years to be my portable power plant. You may be familiar with these things. They’re sold commonly for roadside emergencies; you can start a dead car with one, inflate a flat tire, and so forth. I had already determined that it would keep my laptop fully charged, so I trotted off to my off-the-grid cabin expecting a couple of long days at the keyboard, where the ideas would come and the words would flow.

That’s not how it worked, however. Because the gods hate me, or because I don’t really understand technology, I only got four hours of energy out of the storage battery. About mid-way through Saturday morning, the thing was drained. I wasn’t using it to power a lamp or run a carpet sweeper (though I could certainly use both at the cabin!). I had only my Mac plugged into it, and I’d always understood laptops to be frugal power sippers. By the time I realized my laptop was no longer charging, I had already used one third of its own internal battery supply. So there I sat, with a day and a half of solitude before me and essentially no computer to write on.

Then I did something radical. I decided to keep writing, using a pencil and a paper notebook. I know. Old school!

I was frustrated, and I assumed that I would simply use the paper and pencil approach to jot down the story ideas that had been coming to me. I had begun thinking of just going home since the writing weekend was a bust. But I found that as I scribbled down my notes, the ideas kept coming. Scenes developed. Dialogue emerged. Relationships in plots across my Fathers and Sons stories did their own call and response before me.

I found I was filling pages and pages of my journal with story material. I couldn’t write fast enough. Perhaps I was using a different part of my brain by channeling the words through a pencil rather than a keyboard. Whatever the reason, my time was quite productive. I was pleased with what was happening, and even during those times when I tore myself out of the cabin to do some chores, I was talking to myself about further story ideas, eager to get back to my pencil and paper to jot them down.

Would I do it that way again? Certainly, but I still want to find a way to power my laptop through the weekend. I’m sure it can be done, and if I propitiate the gods or get myself more technologically savvy, that’s what I intend to do.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Humble efforts, Rants and ruminations

3 Comments on “everything and nothing”


  1. It’s all about the message, not the medium. I do almost all my first drafts in longhand. For me it’s too easy with a computer to prematurely tweak and edit, cleaning up before the words are all down.

  2. Averil Dean Says:

    I draft almost everything longhand now. I had a similar experience to yours, and found that it was hugely helpful to get messy and just let the words flow. Seeing them immediately typewritten seems too proper, as scruffy as my writing begins.

  3. Annam Says:

    I think longhand encourages free association and more creative thinking. I’ll rewrite sometimes using a pen and paper. My entire first novel was written by hand, but unfortunately it wasn’t very good.


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