Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wild dogs and Longhorn cattle couldn't drag me away

By Julie

Here's hoping our readers don't tire of hearing about our retreat for one or two more blog posts. It made for some good material.

I left home Thursday afternoon, frustrated because I'd spent the better part of two days preparing for the retreat instead of writing, but excited because three glorious days stretched ahead of me when I could catch up.

Well, catching up didn't happen.

See, at home, I have my routine. I settle into the same spot on the same sofa around the same time of day, do a little wandering on the Internet, read email, then get to work. Some days are more productive than others, but most days while drafting, I can spit out a goodly number of new words. Often, my night owl muse kicks in again -- or sometimes for the first time that day -- around 11 p.m., when everyone else has gone to sleep and the house is quiet again.

The everyday solitude I enjoy while my kids are at school and my husband is at work is my ideal environment for producing high word count when I need to.

I needed that reminder.

When I arrived at the gorgeous house we lucked into, the others were wrapping up lunch and settling into a quiet time for writing. I crammed down a sandwich and went out to explore the wraparound porch. It took me two tries, but I finally got comfortable in a rocking chair with a small table to kick my feet up, my headphones plugged in and my browser pointed to Pandora, my hand lotion and soft drink nearby.

For two hours or so, I felt at home in my body and environment and wrote a lot. But that was probably the last real dent I made in my 50K NaNoWriMo goal all weekend.

But word count isn't everything, even during NaNoWriMo. (Yes! Gasp! It's true!)

And the other things that did transpire in the next few days were not nothing.

In one read-and-critique session, I learned my NaNo project seems to have merit. I received good feedback on my topic and encouraging words about one point-of-view voice I'm developing. It seems my classes this year with Margie Lawson have impacted my writing positively, and several in the group wanted information about her.

In another session, I nearly put myself to sleep reading a scene from my previous manuscript out loud. Yes, the one I'm querying. I was humbled stumbling over the words, realizing I'd failed miserably at editing the scene.

Susan and I both stayed up until nearly 3 a.m., sitting at the dining room table, putting our metaphorical work gloves on and working through our scenes. Pausing to chat and giggle deliriously on occasion. We hoped we weren't keep anyone else awake, but apparently, a dog howling at something did if we didn't (the moon? Coyotes? Will we ever know?). The reworked scene pleased me, and I'm on alert for more of the former kind in my manuscript.

The mental work I accomplished while sitting and thinking and plotting allowed me to jump right back into my writing on Monday and sufficiently catch up to the point where I know I can meet a November goal (though perhaps revised downward from 50K).

Other valuable experiences nourished my much neglected Girls in the Basement.

A mid-afternoon chat with the house's owner, an amazingly talented and productive woman, reminded me how seldom I get out in the real world and talk with new folks. A mistake for a writer.

Looking up from my lunch and out the front window one day to see a small herd of Texas Longhorns crossing the front yard reminded me the world we live in is just plain funny.

A solo photo trek at dusk reminded me how much I love wandering in a beautiful natural environment, shooting the same subjects over and over until I get them right.

Hushed conversations with my cohorts reminded me how lovely it is to talk at length with the members of my tribe – they are the ones who "get" me.

(Well, for the most part. Though we all got along fabulously, there were a few moments when I just had to say my new favorite phrase out loud: "We are not alike." And that was a reminder how unique each of us is, too.)

I left early to attend a concert with my family. Creeping alone in my car, in the dark, down the gravel-covered road from our hilly perch on Saturday evening, I felt strangely melancholy to leave this place and these people behind.

I was happy to return to my family and my routine, and happy to get back to producing the rough draft that I hope eventually leads to a coherent new story.

But I'd also be happy to return to this weekend and do it all over again.


  1. Jealous. Sounds so delightful. And as usual, your photos are divine. Especially love the red rose popping on that tan and green background. That's a framer . . . :D


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