time well spent

When I decided to devote a weekend to writing at the cabin, I thought it might be interesting to see just how I used my time. To that end, I tried to keep a log of what/when I was writing. My computer problems appeared at first to thwart that idea, but once I realized I could keep writing, I kept paying attention too.

I arrived at my little cabin at 6:00 p.m. on Friday. There was still about two hours of daylight ahead of me, but there is always so much to do when I first arrive: unpacking the truck, checking on the status of things, paying attention to the living wild forest all around me. I ate my dinner and thought about laying a campfire for the evening, but I was so relaxed just sitting on the porch that I didn’t. Nor did I try to do any active writing right away, though I did some research, including determining just how close up you can see when looking through binoculars. (It features in one of my stories.)

At 8:15 I moved into the cabin and hooked up my computer to the storage battery. All systems were go, and I looked forward to a writing marathon for the next two days. I opened one of my stories, called “Little Gray Birds” and tinkered with it, mostly just making notes and fooling around with words but not trying to add anything substantive to it. A half hour later I turned my attention to my story “When we were young” and spent an hour on it. Again, it was more pencil work than ambitious creative work, but I had begun my writing experiment, which was the whole point. At 9:30 I retired for the night.

I rose at 5:15 on Saturday. The whippoorwills were still calling. My computer still had a full charge, so I charged in as well. I began tinkering with a nonfiction road trip story I’ve been working on for a friend. I pretty much have it done, but it never hurts to come back to something with a fresh eye. I worked on that for about an hour. Then I went down to the lake to fish a while. I got one strike, but whatever it was jumped the hook.

I returned to the cabin at 8:15 and turned my attention to “When we were young” again. This is another piece that is essentially done, but every time I return to it, I find ways to make it better. I spent forty-five minutes at this then began working on a completely new story that I had originally intended to call “Alien Invaders” but soon discovered needed to be named “Work then play.” I love it when that kind of revelation happens.

I worked from 9:00 to 11:00 on this new story and got down 1,700 words. But it was then that I saw my computer battery was down to only 61%. I had already drained the storage battery and was now draining my computer’s battery. In my experience, I had about two hours of computer time left, yet I still had at least 24 hours of cabin time before me.

This surprise made me wonder if I ought to have just given up and gone home. Instead, I did another form of primary research that involved a kind of swimming you can do in such remote places with no one around. Why I hadn’t done this type of swimming before is a mystery to me.

After that, I took a nice nap then went into the nearby town for some supplies. (I also dropped off a bag of books at the local library.)

By 2:00 I was back at the cabin and had finished my lunch. I decided then that I should at least jot down some notes for ideas that had been coming to me about “Work then play.” So I got out my visit journal and mechanical pencil (I keep both at the ready down there) and started scribbling. Two hours later I looked up, finished for the present. But I returned to it soon after, and I kept at it until 6:00 p.m. when I realized I had finished the first draft of the story.

I was pleased with what I had achieved. I had my dinner and began laying a fire in the ring outside the cabin. I never lighted it though. It was the night of the super moon and I had this notion that one ought to experience swimming by the light of a super moon. So rather than get a fire going that I would soon have to leave untended, I left it half built and prepared myself for my swim. In the dark. In a remote and private lake. With no one around. Again.

On Sunday morning I spent a half hour reading what I had written on the computer the day before for “Work then play.” I wanted to see how well it meshed with what I had subsequently written by hand that afternoon. By then the computer battery was nearly gone.

I devoted the rest of the morning to actual chores around the place, dipping into my journal to scribble down notes as they came to me.

In all, it was a successful experiment. I intend to contrive a chance to do it again, and with my lessons learned, I expect to do even better.

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4 Comments on “time well spent”


  1. The silence of it all sounds wonderful. Last Saturday seemed like a great night for a swim. It was a little cloudy in Texas, but I could tell how bright the moon was. Years ago, in Canada, I went for a night swim. The water was so clear and the moon so bright that you could swim down, open your eyes, and see everything in this weird glow.

    Getting some writing done on top of everything else sounds even better. I’m glad you have a little cabin in the woods; it sounds like a great place!

  2. Paul Lamb Says:

    Actually, there’s not a lot of silence in the forest this time of year. Between the birdsong and the love-sick tree frogs during the day, and the owls and the love-sick tree frogs during the night there is plenty of constant noise. What is nice, though, is the solitude.

  3. JOnKEnna Says:

    I agree with the first comment; the peace (if not the silence) of it all sounds heavenly. What do you feel about solitude? I’ve always enjoyed it ever since being a kid. Most people seem to view it with a kind of horror, though.

  4. Paul Lamb Says:

    Jon, I have no trouble with solitude. I was raised in a large family, and I raised a pretty good sized family of my own, so I’ve always felt crowded in. The solitude is great, to me.


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