Last weekend, I was lucky enough to be invited to the Catskills (Bearsville, NY specifically! Bearsville!) with a group of Young Adult and Middle Grade writers for a four day long writer’s retreat. The lovely Alison Cherry invited seven writers to join her in the prettiest house (with the strangest art) to do nothing but write, regroup, and of course talk about books (and, um, boys and cheese and the difference between New York and LA and the meaning of life and our childhoods and feminism and whatever else came into our pretty little heads).
As is often the case, the question of Process came up, and we even got to see each other’s processes, which is something that rarely happens, since as writers we usually work alone and don’t get a chance to see how other people work.
Let me tell you: No two writers work alike. Some of us were able to write together at the dining room table, while others had to have privacy in one of the many bedrooms. Some writers needed concrete visuals to figure out how to write action sequences, and some needed to talk out logistics to take revisions to the next level. Some of us need coffee (hi, world), or the ability to procrastinate online while writing (hi, again) or game-playing breaks, long walks, showers, salty food, sweet food, absolute silence, resonant music. It was fascinating to see such a wide array of methods in such a small group of writers.
It was also basically the best time ever. I got some serious work done. I find a new kind of focus when I am held accountable by a group of people who all seem to be working hard around me. But there was also a reward at the end of ever day: each other. And a hot tub. But mostly each other.
I’d love to find a way to accomplish the same balance of intense focus followed by total relaxation and happiness. At home, I struggle to find focus, so I force myself into multiple writing sessions, or sit with the guilt of not having done enough, and therefore can’t fully relax at the end of the day. I’m half watching 30 Rock and half berating myself for not working more.
In Bearsville, I felt such a deep and gratifying sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, that I felt I had really earned the fun of the evening. Which then helped me feel more motivated the next day to write even more, or even better. So, basically, the exact opposite of the Bad Writer Cycle I can get into in my normal writing life.
The solution? Longer stints at Red Horse Cafe, because I don’t work well at home alone. More time with big groups of writer friends. Celebrating the victories, even the small ones. And more cheese.
Also, possibly moving to LA where they are apparently holding some truly fabulous ladies that I absolutely need to see in my day to day life hostage.