The Perfect Writers Retreat: The inestimable gift of good friends
Let me start with a statement of truth: Writers are a peculiar group. Having said that, let me add we have also many other qualities. At any one time we’re generous, loving, compassionate, passionate, serious, needy, whiny, hungry, frustrated . . . you get the picture.
So it might not surprise you to hear that I have been known to despair, at times, over the fact that my life is simply too busy to get any writing done. (Too busy with items of my own choosing, I should admit, unless it’s unexpected, age-related doctor appointments.)
During the Covid-19 lockdown, when travel was discouraged, and mingling with other human beings frowned on, before vaccinations were available, I felt particularly shut-in and unable to focus. I’d write a little some days, a lot on others, or nothing at all, depending on my mood or inability to concentrate. In previous years, Stephen and I often traveled and spent time camped at lovely places (the North Shore of Lake Superior in Grand Marais, MN or Two Harbors, MN; the Oregon Coast; little campgrounds in Wisconsin) where I would write with few, if any interruptions. In the winter we sometimes traveled to New Mexico with friends for a month at a time, a superb place for concentrated writing binges.
Thanks to Covid, however, these travels were suspended. Now what?? How would I ever make progress on the second book in the Key Trilogy (The Power Awakens)?
I asked myself questions. “Who do I know who has room for one other person at their home?” and “Who is being as safety conscious as I am?” and “Who might welcome having a guest, like me, for an extended length of time, say five or six days?”
It didn’t take long to find the perfect person, the friend who might actually enjoy having a house guest. Melissa H! Perfect choice: She’s a great friend, loves people, has been too isolated since Covid shut everything down, and has a spare bedroom downstairs off the family room that is sitting empty and unused.
I called. Would she be open to having a guest? Could I rent her downstairs for a few days?
“Yes!” she said immediately. After checking with her adult children to be sure they thought this a safe idea, she said, “All my children say ‘yes!’ They know you’ve been careful during this quarantine. Plus they’ve been super worried about me being far away. So ‘yes!’ and don’t be ridiculous about paying any kind of rent!”
My first visit was only a few days. (I didn’t want to wear out my welcome.) Melissa kept her own schedule, attended her Zoom meetings, and went about each day as she wished. I disappeared downstairs for hours and we didn’t talk at all until evening. She carried on with her life, and I wrote every day, all day.
For me those precious, uninterrupted hours of work, listening to the story unfold in my head, letting characters dictate their lines were heavenly. I immersed myself in the world of Idelisia, followed the trials and tribulations of Oelsa, met new folks, some human, some not, some evil, some good, and some not clearly one or the other.
Those were golden days! What writer wouldn’t be thrilled to have the space in which to work as well as space in her head for the story to unfold.
As if this weren’t enough, Melissa also cooked supper every day. She whipped up wonderful meals, homemade everything, delicious in the way only a great Southern cook could make them. I didn’t have to do a thing but sit down and enjoy!
Although most of our friends and family were certain we’d spend ALL our time laughing and talking together, and I wouldn’t get any real work finished, we stuck to the plan. After a long day of work, and after a wonderful meal, then we’d talk and laugh and watch something on Netflix. In truth I hadn’t laughed that much in months!
When my stay with Melissa ended, as all good things must, we were both sad, but she repeated her offer for me to return. “You’re welcome! Any time! If you can get more work done at my house, come on over!” Did I mention Melissa lives about six miles from my house?
I took her up on her offer two more times. (One of her adult sons said he was happy to have someone stay with his mom for awhile. She’d been too lonely. But, he warned her, “don’t go inviting just any old writer into your home!”.
On the last of these visits I stayed six days and five nights, completing draft one of Book Two of the Key Trilogy!! We cried just a little when I came upstairs and announced the draft was completed.
Thank you, Melissa, for saying “Yes!” to a crazy idea and making my time with you so warm and welcoming and delicious. Thank you for opening your home and your heart so Oelsa and her friends could make their way in and out of one problem after another and dodge all sorts of dangers and traps set by Anvyartach and his army of monsters.
Most of all, thank you for being such a supportive, caring friend.