I'm back from my writing retreat at McKenzie Bridge. I stayed in a rental cabin on a piece of land right on the river.
First night of Writing Retreat: walk into rental, smell garbage, and find unwashed linnens. Cleaning & washing... (and writing later...)— John Burridge (@JBurridge) August 29, 2016
I spent most of my days writing from here. Mostly I was sitting, but the table was the right height for typing while standing, too. The idea was to write for about fifty minutes and take a fifteen minute break, during which I'd heft free-weights, do some planking, and brew more tea. In reality, this tended to play out write for about fourty-five minutes and take a twenty minute break snacking on snacks and catching up on FaceBook. The first days, I would go look at the river. The last days, I started doing a four-block power-walk, especially if I felt I was falling asleep.
I worked on two manuscripts, and wrote about 3500 and 3800 words, writing roughly 1900 words a day. Both stories were set on Venus; my goal was to work on a series of Venus stories. I thought I might be able to submit to a contest with the concept of darkness, but the first story's use of darkness was a stretch and it turned into something else.
So I brainstormed another story, catching myself from writing another disqualifying story by framing it as a children's fairy-tale.
Sleeping there took a little bit of practice
First night in a strange house in the woods; when I'm old I'm going to sleep propped against the front door with a flashlight & bullhorn.— John Burridge (@JBurridge) August 29, 2016
Getting a good night's sleep continued to be a challenge.
I think the local wildlife is shooting a remake of the cartoon where a roof is used to gather nuts, only they added an edgy sex scene.— John Burridge (@JBurridge) August 30, 2016
The second day wasn't as productive as I would have liked, because I had a mild migraine (luckily, I managed to get some pain-killers when shadow flashing started and headed the worst of it off).
By day four, I was drinking too much caffeine (both tea and MexiCokes), which was giving me a slight case of heartburn. While I made a lot of progress on two manuscripts, I ended up not finishing either.
Um, on one hand, this isn't good; at Writer's of the Future I pushed out a passable first draft of a story in twenty-four hours. On the other hand, I changed boats mid-stream, opting from writing braided stories on Venus to writing a short story set on Venus that would also qualify as a contest entry. But it did allow me to explore the setting.
Driving home, Thursday evening, I realized my lower back hurt. I'm not sure what I did, but it's still aching Monday afternoon.
I think if I had to do this again, I'd go with one or two other writers so that I'd be more likely to stay on a writing schedule and so that I wouldn't be so freaked out by odd noises at night (and sleep better). I'd also hope that doing something like this with others might prompt me to plan meals a little better (I did bring and eat salad greens, but I think I also snacked too much on almonds, chocolate cookies and craisins because I looked flabby when I got home). I'd be more careful about setting up my workstation (in this case, an iPad on an easel) ergonomically to cut down on head-, shoulder- and backaches. I would have also brought more robust musical sources, because the every now and then the white noise of the river and the rustling of the trees and the moonless nights would become oppressive.
Looking at the numbers, I managed about 1300 words a day, usually in about 5 sessions. A good session was about 500 words in an our, but more likely I'd get about 300. The second day was not a stellar writing day, mostly because I realized I should take a nap to prevent the headache from developing. I hit a circadian rhythm; and I'm coming to the conclusion that as I've aged, it's getting harder and harder to want to nap at 2 PM.
Bringing this forward, I see that the windows of time I have between The Daye Jobbe and Shuttling the Childe happens to be during the time of day when I most want to fall asleep. This suggests that I should do one of several things:
A) Get up 4:30 AM, write from 5 AM to 7 AM, and then do things that don't require creative energy in the early afternoon.
B) Make arrangements with The Daye Jobbe to shift my hours back so that I can write as soon as I drop The Childe off at school. (Which id difficult with that pesky early-release day).
C) Elect to write at night, from 9AM to 11 AM, getting up at 7 AM.
D) See about shifting the circadian rhythm so I don't nap; or else embrace it and plan for a cat-nap
The other area of improvement is I need to write more every day so that my hourly word-count is higher. I've gotten rusty, both at letting the words flow out, and also at switching off the inner editor/censor.