The “Stay-Treat”

Sonoma CountyI’m dreaming of a writing retreat, peace and quiet, freedom to write without interruption. Retreat time is writer’s gold. No distractions. But where to go?

After weeks away from my book to raise funds for its launch as the first in a series (“100 Years in the Life”), I’m ready to get back to the writing. The trouble is I want to get the book finished soon, not share my time with the demands of daily life. I need a writing retreat.

“Go home!” some might say. “You live in a writing retreat.”

It’s true, right? It’s quiet here. The beauty is inspirational. Summer mornings take my breath away. Apricots ripen on a tree in view, hanging tight to the branches like a flock of birds waiting for the right moment to fly.  The lotus flowers are blooming on the pond just a five-minute walk through the woods from my back door.

Retreat time is writer’s gold. No distractions.
For years I dreamt of the perfect place. Solitude was in it. Serenity played a key role. All of those good things that open my writer’s heart while I focus my mind. I knew there were redwoods in the picture and a great big sky. Songbirds trilled, butterflies fluttered about — I could see all this through windows that overlooked a meadow. Here, I wrote for hours at a time, or for however long, really. What was time besides the rising and setting of the sun, the darkness that crept in finally and added new dimensions to the steadiness of my focus.

And then I moved there.

Every morning I wake to the sound of birds singing. The roar of wind in the redwoods outside my window stirs my soul. It’s the flame that lights the fire under my fingers. It’s a daily dream come true. A visiting friend from Manhattan is the only person who ever complained. “It’s so quiet! How can you stand it?” he squawked. I assured him I could stand it just fine.

But there are some things I never expected.

My dog needs a walk. My sweet and demanding 17-year-old three-legged kitty is crying again. The Sun magazines are piling up, mail has to be dealt with, meals have to be prepared and dishes washed and put away. It’s hot and I have to water the plants on the back deck twice a day to keep the flowers blooming. I straighten a picture hanging on the wall, replace the bar of soap in the shower because it’s run thin. And oh yeah, that mug still needs the handle glued back on …

This is home. Can home be a writing retreat? No, it can’t, I’ve decided, because, well, home is home.

I considered taking my laptop to a nearby cafe every morning for a few hours. Some writers love cafes for writing. Natalie Goldberg thinks they’re the best. But not me. I love coffee, but I don’t love writing in public places. I don’t write with music playing. I don’t write with people around. I like a one-on-one relationship without chatter or mood-influencing songs.

So I Googled beach house rentals (too much $$), considered an offer of a week’s housesit (I’d need a housesitter of my own to do it), I pored over VRBO listings — so many to choose from and none of them just right. Plus, I really can’t go away for weeks at a time for lots of reasons, including my work — and my sweet and demanding 17-year-old three-legged kitty.

What to do?

You’ve heard of “Stay-cations”? I’ve decided the only way to get everything I need here is to stay home and make it a writing retreat — a really good one. My “Stay-Treat.” It’s all in how you look at it, right?

This is how it’ll go. I’ve set start and end dates with black-out dates marked on the calendar — work days (I teach memoir and several book editing and consulting projects are in). I’ve calendared in as many writing days as I can fit all the rest that’s important. My four-week retreat starts July 13. I’ll find out if it’s as good as I want it to be.

Let’s hope is Dorothy was right: There’s no place like home.

The Pond

The Pond

 

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