by David E Sharp
My children can argue about anything. Sudden shouts rise through the house to alert the family that a disagreement has reared its ugly head. My job is to intervene before violence erupts. In theory, I want to give them a chance to work things out on their own.
Hey, it happens on occasion! When the stars are in perfect alignment, the wind is coming from the right direction, and they simultaneously contract sudden-onset laryngitis, the yelling stops. All the other times, I drop everything to break it up.
I follow the sound of raised voices. From down the hall, I hear, “There is no way in hell I’m going to stand here and let you tell me that this bucket is red-orange when any idiot can see it is orange-red!” Uh oh. This is going to be a real throw-down.
Once I arrive, everyone begins talking at once, trying to drown out one another’s protests. Foolishly, I try to reason with them. Why have I not learned to skip this step? We all know this will end with me pointing at a rust-colored pail and shouting, “You know what color it is? It’s green. And we’ll call it green as long as you live under my roof, so everybody’s wrong! Now drop it!”
Then I confiscate the bucket and set it in my writing room, where it will be out of reach. We have a few instances like this every week. If I take the most outlandish position, I can short-circuit the argument. Life moves on with relative ease for about fifteen minutes.
But here is the scary part. Now, every time I look at that bucket…it looks green.
Wait! Isn’t this a writing blog?
Yes, it is. And while I sit here staring at a bucket that I know is not really green, I try once again to sink into my fictional world and generate some semblance of a story. But with all the constant interruptions, it can be challenging to develop a flow. Narration is all about character and mood, and story. Recovering that headspace is complex and constant interruptions from the so-called “real world” are never in short supply.
Suppose my children aren’t bickering about some inane disagreement. In that case, it’s urgent emails, depressing newsfeeds, and a calendar full of events and obligations. Apparently, I have to feed people. I can only go so far with writing sprints in the nooks and crannies I find in my schedule. I do know writers who keep a regular writing slot. I have tried, but my available timeslots are inconsistent, and interruptions always know where to find me. For me, the actual writing does not happen until I prioritize it.
Enter: The Immersive Writing Seclusion
The most effective ingredient for writing has nothing to do with plotting or pantsing. It is not about following a hero’s journey or fitting into a three-act structure. Those things are all fine. But my engagement is the best thing I have found to produce a story. Word counts stop being critical when I can shut out everything else and focus on the work I love. Hours melt away. New ideas ambush me around every bend. Writing becomes less mechanical and more experiential.
I have learned that I must black out time in my own calendar that I can devote to total writing immersion. I build up a store of vacation time, letting everyone think I am out of town. On occasion, I have actually gone out of town. I nail down all the obligations, so they can’t nag at me while I’m working. I banish social media and newsfeeds from my sight. I make arrangements for my children and remind them that while dad is away, to remember that petty arguments are pointless because all the buckets are green. Even the red ones. Especially the red ones.
And then I get to work.
With time and headspace available, I can produce meatier word counts, of course. But the real win is that the writing is better. My brain does not have to juggle the constant distractions, the slings, and arrows of outrageous fortune, the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to. Most of my favorite writings have come from these times.
Do you need a writing getaway?
NCW has a great opportunity coming up. The Fall Writing Retreat this October 9-12th can be a great chance to connect with other writers, drink coffee by the gallon, and silo yourself within fictional worlds. Scenic Estes Park makes a beautiful backdrop for finding your inspiration. The advantage of escaping with other writers is they encourage you, and since they are all here for the same reason, they won’t distract you. And they won’t judge you if you think all the buckets are green. They’ll just smile, pat you on the shoulder, and loosely base a character off you.
Whether you plan to take a writing retreat solo or with your tribe, check out these resources to make your writing retreat productive: