A Writer’s “Stay-Treat”


I’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?

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

True, right? It’s quiet where I live. The beauty is inspirational. Summer mornings take my breath away. Apricots ripen on a tree in view.  Lotus flowers bloom on the pond just a five-minute walk through the redwoods from my back door.

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 restless rustle of wind in the redwoods outside my window stirs me. 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 here! How can you stand it?” 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 begging my attention. The Sun magazines are piling up, I have piano to practice before Wednesday’s lesson, dinner to get ready. If it’s hot outside, I need to water the plants on the deck twice a day to keep the flowers blooming. I straighten a picture hanging on the wall. I replace the bar of soap in the dish on the sink because it looks thin. And oh yeah, that mug still needs the handle glued back on.

How can home be a writing retreat? It can’t, because, well, home is home. No matter how lovely it may be, there’s a lot going on here that distracts me from writing.

I considered taking my laptop to a nearby cafe every morning for a few hours. Some people love to write in cafes. Natalie Goldberg, best-selling author of Writing Down the Bones, thinks cafes are the best place to write. But I don’t. I love espresso drinks, but I don’t love writing in noisy, public places. I don’t write with music playing. I don’t write with people around, talking. I prefer a one-on-one relationship with my writing, without chatter or mood-influencing songs.

I Googled beach house rentals, considered an offer of a week’s housesit, 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 kitty.

What to do?

The only way to get everything I need, I’ve decided, is to stay home and make home a writing retreat — a really good one. My “Stay-Treat.”

This is how it’ll go. I’ve set start and end dates for my stay-treat to help make it manageable and real. I’ve marked those dates on my calendar. I get two full days every week, Fridays and Saturdays. Since I write for six hours a day, sometimes longer, that’s a minimum of forty-eight hours in four weeks. During my writing time, I’ll turn off my phone. I’ll make sure no emails signal me at the top of my computer screen. And I’ve already put a new bar of soap in the bathroom soap dish.

My four-week retreat starts this Friday. Let’s hope Dorothy was right: There’s no place like home.