Breaking Away

Breaking Away

In December, I stepped away from social media and blogging for a bit. And it was nice. After a short return to social media, I’m ready for another break — especially as I move into a section of A Magic Life that isn’t as clear to me as the rest of the book and what I’ve already written that comes after it.

Disconnecting helps me.

I could go on about how disconnecting helps, but I think it’s best summed up by Jonathan Franzen in an interview in Scratch.

…there’s a tipping point you reach where you can’t get away from the electronic community, where you become almost physically dependent on it. And that, I persist in thinking, is not compatible with my notion of where terrific literature comes from.

I don’t share this quote to stir up an argument about the merits of being online or offline; only that, for me, I write best when I have no reflex to see what’s up online. In those times, I have no choice but work on the task at hand or think about writing.

Retreating

Last year, a friend and I took some time off work, holed up in a Texas state park cabin, and had a mini writing retreat. It was one of the best breaks from everything I’ve ever had.

Arrangements have been made for this year’s break, in a different cabin in a different state park. (A park I love, and earlier than last year, when the heat creeped in, making mid-May feel like summer; this year, the weather should be better — even if it rains.)

The Benefit of an Annual Writing Retreat

I’ll say this about an annual mini writing retreat — it’s a great reminder that one takes writing serious enough to leave everything, take a day or two off work, and do the thing you love. It’s also a great reminder of how fast (or slow) one moves as a writer.

I can now see the end of the book I worked on during the last retreat, but I would have liked getting more done this past year. At the same time, I know that if I sit down in a cabin in another Texas State Park working on the first draft of A Magic Life next year, I won’t be pleased with myself. It’s because of soundings like the retreat that I can measure my pace. I am not ashamed of last year’s writing efforts.

It’s the first time in quite some time I can say that.

Breaking Away

I know that some would say my view of stepping away for focus is unneeded — even extreme. While most people I know who say they can spend time connected to things and still get things done don’t get things done, I know some people who do. I’ll go as far as saying some people I know get things done because they are always on the go and thrive on it.

It takes all kinds; this is not to chastise those who don’t require long periods of silence and thought to get things done. My second novel was written during lunch breaks in a busy cafeteria at an old day job where there were frequent interruptions. Consequently, there’s a reason that novel was shelved — the lack of focus is evident on so many pages.

I can only speak for myself, and I know that the best writing comes when I break away from it all and push myself to do the kind of writing I didn’t know I was capable of doing. As I move into the one section of the current book that exists to me in shadows, I know that it’s only through deeper focus that things will be clear and I’ll [hopefully] surprise myself with the effort.

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