The Importance of Getting Away

Maybe it’s the sunshine and hot summer breezes, but there is definitely something about summer that makes me want to get away. Every time the weather shifts, I fantasize about escaping to some faraway island where all I have to think about is turning the page of the book I’m reading and reapplying sunscreen.

I’m sure we all want this for our summers, but for writers, our dreams of getting away can feel even more urgent. Mine, for instance, also involve relative solitude, no internet connection, tons of writing prompts and notes, and preferably, food delivered to my door so that I don’t have to worry about weekly grocery trips or being famished by the time I look up from my work.

As writers, periods of solitude are not only desirable, but downright essential. A weekend spent in a hotel by yourself to finish up a short story, a week in a friend’s cabin to nail down the ending of your novel… these bits of time can provide the necessary focus and dream-space to actually bring your project to the next step.  When I was finishing Outside the Ordinary World, for instance, I tried to get off to Wellspring House in Ashfield for at least one long weekend every month.  I felt horribly guilty, driving away from my family–I can still picture my bewildered husband holding our toddler on one hip while the five year old tugged at his shirt and the dog whined–but I knew that if I was ever going to get the thing done, I simply had to carve out some space/time where I could think about the work for more than ten minutes…  

If you’re really lucky, your get-away will be several weeks all-expenses-paid at a writer’s residency that offers everything a writer needs–solitude, nature, food, and community. But even if you can’t manage to make that happen, it’s still possible to create the space you need to complete a project that has been lingering or get started on something new. Rent an Air BnB nearby for a night, or stay in a cheap motel.  Offer to house-sit for a friend who’s leaving town, or if you have too many commitments and responsibilities at home (pets, children, partners), see if you can get away for at least a day and set up shop at your local library or cafe’. Even better: leave your phone at home and install a website blocking app on your computer. Worried your loved ones won’t be able to get in touch? Remind yourself that there was a time when we lived without cell phones, then tell your loved ones they can call the library landline if there’s a true emergency.

The point is, there is simply never going to be a time in our lives without commitments, clutter, financial constraints and overcrowded schedules…  So find a way to carve out the time and space now to nourish your writer’s soul.  

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