Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Retreating is hard

Isn't it gorgeous? This is a rooftop in the small village I am staying in for the writers' retreat. I finally went out of the house yesterday and went for a long, long walk, down the mountainside, along winding roads, to another stunning village where I wandered along the stream and cleared my head.
I have been here for just over a week and I have found it incredibly hard to settle down and "do" anything. I had grand plans for all the projects I was going to work on, but just haven't been able to do any of them. I have been missing home, missing James, missing the cats, missing my favourite cafes, missing all the distractions. Unsettled, I have been carrying on with my normal "routine" of checking email, playing Scrabble, Facebook, etc...I was so desperate for this month, craving it, but now I am here, it's just not quite what I imagined for myself.

But, during my walk yesterday, I realised that I have been retreating. First, I have been sleeping. A lot. And that's not something I had been doing much of since the White Road came out. Two months of almost constant head-spinning, that's how it has felt. Two months of sudden, "Must sell my book" pressure, with confusion over what I am supposed to be doing, how a "published" author behaves, who should I contact to get it out there, so many questions.

So: sleep. Very important. Very welcome. I can do that.

Second, I have made some decisions about what I am not going to do. I am not going to rush into a second book, a collection of flash fiction. I just don't need to. And I am not at all convinced that my flashes would work in a book by themselves, without longer stories interspersed. Not convinced. So, no rush.

Third, this morning I gathered a set of prompts and four of us did a wonderful flash-writing session, where we all wrote for 20 minutes using the same set of prompts and then read out what we had written. Magic. It's always magical, seeing what each person makes of the same fragments of sentences (which I "liberated" from various poems I found online). It's a renewal of faith in that creative process, the one in which there is no story and then, 20 minutes later, here are characters, willed into existence, with lives, loves, desires, pain. We are going to do more of this!

Part of why I am unsettled has to do with the fact that I am leaving the retreat tomorrow for a quick trip to London for an awards ceremony (details will be available Thursday night), so knowing I was going has perhaps stopped me from truly immersing myself. But then I think to myself - would I have immersed? Immersed into what?

I need to let go, let go of the need to "do", and as Cynthia so aptly reminded me this morning, by sending me the link to this blog post: How Getting Nothing Done can Make You More Productive. Yes. Ok. I think I will try that. It's hard.

Perhaps I should have done as Vanessa has on her blog today, set out some goals for her upcoming retreat in Ireland (have a wonderful time!). Perhaps I was unprepared. But I am here now, and must do what I must do - including not pressuring myself to do anything.

On a brighter note, my fellow Salt author Charles Lambert sets off on his own "Something Rich and Strange" Virtual Book Tour with his first appearance, on fellow author and blogger Elizabeth Baines' blog. Do check it out, it's well worth the read, as is his collection. Bon (virtual) voyage, Charles!

1 comment:

pierre l said...

Have a good trip to London, and I hope the ceremony goes well.