Monday, July 21, 2014

writing in company

Today I’m sitting 15 feet from the beach – writing. MJ is up on the patio looking at the same view with her notebook and computer. K is at the dining room table, papers spread out around her. T is engaging with her new book perched at an old ping pong table. When it rained yesterday, we settled like a flock of birds in the living room and wrote, the room full of the sound of clicking computer keys.
Usually my writing chair is a rather hard wooden chair at Starbucks, or a more cushy booth seat at Panera – both great places to write because they have food. (I regret to say that I have become addicted to the lemon pound cake at the former and the shortbread cookie at the latter.)
Today though I am writing while sitting on a chair with an awning, looking out at the silver blue lake. A pontoon boat floats aimlessly 25 feet off shore. To my left, S’s bathing suit hangs drying on a lawn chair. To my left, another chair has a towel hanging off of it, as well as my discarded water bottle. There is no pound cake, sadly, but I’d be pretty ungrateful if I complained about the view.

I’ve found that when there’s something amazing to look at that I like to write without looking at the keyboard or the screen. I like to think that my prose is elevated accordingly when I’m looking at the the blue sky with clouds drifting across it, the water that changes from green to indigo to sage with shades of charcoal and lavender. I like to think that the words are flowing faster because of the impetus of the white-sailed boat beating against the wind half a mile out, and the relentlessness of the waves coming up on the stones a few yards away.
It’s true that I’m writing like crazy, but it’s probably not because of the sailboat. Time is the thing. When you go on a writing retreat, there is no retreat involved. You advance forward boldly onto the metaphorical page because you have the time. Because the day is empty of obligation. Because your sister is sitting on the other side of a sturdy plastic table, writing a poem: this powerful camaraderie of words allows for no retreat.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

the geography of writing


It is possible and desirable to write at home in the middle of your life: necessary even. But if you go on a writing retreat… you have as a bonus the wonderful feeling of being removed from your life, by a fast moving plane and several thousand (?) miles of air. I am obligationless. My vacation responder is on. My only duty for a week is to write as much as I can.
The first station of the writing
S and I are in the Reno Airport Hyatt, with just the hum of the air conditioner and the softly subdued yellowish lighting in our lounging area (L-shaped couch, desk area, wet bar). We have a view of the hills around Reno – brownish purple and mystical looking. Outside it’s 91-ish: “it’s a dry heat” I heard someone say at the airport, as if it was the first time anyone had ever thought such a thing.
We are writing: Sue at the desk, and me on the L-shape. Her notes will be more quizzical and image-ful (she’s a poet). Mine will be yearning toward plot (fiction writer).
It is funny to think of us here so many years after the beginnings of our long sister affair – playing in the backyard or in the dining room under the table with all the dolls, fighting in dad’s chair (the black eye), talking together, each in our single bed, with the bathroom door open a crack to let out a wedge of light in lieu of a nightlight.