Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Six Days of Good Work

Despite a few fleeting fears of wasting my time staring into space or going slightly mad in the room by myself and typing pages upon pages of "All Work and No Play Makes Jill A Dull Girl," I surprised myself with discipline and productivity at my week at Ragdale.

The weather worked in my favor -- rainy days and then sunny ones where it was too cold to venture outside long.

I did carve out time to run the prairie some mornings, past patches of violet that were as thick as a purple carpet, over streams via charming foot bridges, through woods lit by stars of white woodland wildflowers. And I rode a borrowed bike down to the beautiful lakefront a couple of times, past Lake Forest estates that made my jaw drop. It's crazy rich up here. There are a few real houses for real people too, but much ye olde mansionry with subhouses and fancy garagi, barns remade modern and glassy, chapels converted into Mumsie's yoga studio. I'm kidding a bit about that last bit, but I shouldn't judge. Old money made this beautiful artist's retreat and I'm the one who is enjoying the luxury of time, time, hours and hours of time to follow that thread through the entire chapter, to tackle the tough questions of purpose and agency, how to give the narrator agency, because that's the big problem, isn't it? Not letting life just happen to her, but making her an actor, one who ACTS on the world instead of letting it buffet her and carry her downstream.

Such is the work I've been doing and four actual shaped chapters have emerged and two more have been vigorously questioned. They are miscreants, those two, and they threaten the integrity of the whole. Can you guess how much I love my naughty trouble-makers? How much I love love to go back in time and write about that lazy period in my life in the early '90s when we slept late and walked the dog on the beach and worked our asses off to avoid the pains of searching for real jobs? How funny, that time was the polar opposite of this virtuous week.

Lessons learned here at my yellow painted desk in the barnhouse:

Separate. Separate writing time from mom time. Honor them both, but know they both suffer when they overlap.

Write in the morning, sleep at night. This has not been possible with Eleanor in afternoon kindergarten, but the end of school is within sight and a new configuration of our time begins soon. Late night composing produces diminishing returns and less than hopeful mornings.

Separate composition from research. Research is the fancy name I have always given to my wandering through Wiki-burg and Google-town, hey, AOL and Facebook live right next door and it wouldn't be neighborly to ignore them, would it now? But this week just to check email I have had to leave my room and go downstairs to a closet to work on a tiny old 'puter that made grinding noises every time it laboriously pulled up a page. It was about as fun as surfing over puddles. A lousy time-killer. I couldn't wait to get back to my fleet laptop. Great for my page count. Mac

Plop a big beautiful dictionary on your desk. Clear off everything else, except maybe a couple of inspiring photos and your current inspiring read. Learn stuff as you go, like ecce homo and edentulous and Gertrude Ederle on your way to endgame. Fall in love again with the thrill of discovering gems like "shambolic."

1 comment:

gillian said...

Sounds wonderful! Kudos. I think you may have been there with someone from my memoir class. She was just there recently as well.

I'd love to apply some time. Not sure when I could take a chunk of time away, but the dream exists.