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Writer’s Craft #72 – Wasting Time in a Writer’s Colony

May 14, 2012

K.A.Laity – All-purpose writer, Fulbrighter, medievalist, humourist, flâneuse,
techno-shamanka, JANE QUIET scripter, Broad Universe social media maven,
Pirate Pub Captain currently anchored in Galway, Ireland
http://www.kalaity.com

Like most writers, I fantasized about the writer’s colony long before I
actually got to one. It would be my own personal Valhalla, filled with
beer-swilling, tough-talking gods of words from whom I would imbibe the mead
of the Æsir. But the first couple days in the colony were complicated. I
wanted to write, but I couldn’t help jumping up every hour or so, just out
of habit.

I was worried about wasting these precious moments as if I could hear each
one ticking off inside my brain. I feared I would never quiet the jangling
of my body, let alone my mind. I was so afraid of not making the most of my
writer’s colony experience that I risked not making the most of it.

The answer of course was the simplest thing: I just needed time. Time to
relax, time to unwind, recharge, even waste. I got up every morning and
walked up the hill and back. I noticed things: the schnauzer who always
barked, but turned out to be a sweetheart; the turtle overturned by a car,
whom I set upright and on its way; and the seemingly endless stream of
detritus ejected from passing cars even in that beautiful stretch of the
Ozarks.

And then I wrote: lots — once I remembered that writing is play.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 14, 2012 6:51 am

    I have a confession to make. I never suffer from writer’s block. *ducks hurled objects from other writers* I discovered long ago that part of the writing process is not writing. It is doing all the other things that one does, including work at the job that actually pays the rent. It is hanging out the laundry and cleaning up after the cat. And it is paying attention to the schnauzer and the overturned turtle. By the time I can get back to the keyboard, I’m spilling over. I can’t get it down fast enough.

    Was the experience in the writer’s colony worth it? Did being there ultimately make you more productive, or provide you with some other tangible benefit? Was it sort of like a prolonged writers group encounter? I really am curious about that. When I was younger I used to fantasize about writers colonies, but now I’m not so sure.

    • May 14, 2012 1:30 pm

      Have you ever been in a situation where you have *nothing* to do but write? In the longer version of this piece, I talked about being in the situation where I was teaching a 4/4 load with very large classes and writing academically at a furious pace to get out of that job. Suddenly have the luxury for a set amount of time to just write was a real switch.

      It was a fantastic opportunity and totally worth it. I was awarded a fellowship to go there based on my short stories, so I felt quite honoured as well as lucky. It was great not just to have the time to write, but to also hang out with a bunch of writers I would never have met otherwise and talk shop. And someone cooked for us, too🙂 there’s a luxury. My only “payment” was to give a talk on what I was writing, which was enjoyable because I mostly spoke about Finnish mythology and then played my kantele.🙂

  2. kellyaharmon permalink
    May 15, 2012 4:01 am

    My writer’s group recently returned from our own mini “writiers’ colony” last week. We rented a cabin and spent four days living and writing together. Could we have accomplished what we did at home? Sure, but probably not at the level we achieved working away from the distractions of home and our full time jobs.

    For me, it was the intangibles that made the trip worthwhile: proximity to supportive writing friends (who know me, and what’s going on with my manuscripts), the ability to get an on-the-spot critique, a group of people to bounce ideas off of (for immediate feedback), etc.

    Of course, going away with writers you know is different than joining a colony where you might not know anyone; but I can see similar benefits from hearing from people who might not be familiar with your work.

    • May 15, 2012 4:11 am

      I think that’s a great thing to do, too. It really is the intangibles, just the atmosphere! I have participated in a few and they are always wonderful. It’s so good to have the time to *focus* on the work without all the usual distractions. While I am lost without my internet connection, I am looking forward to a few days with another writer pal at an internet-free cottage by the north coast.

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