The Power of Down Time

Two weeks ago, I fucked off to a 4-day writing retreat with Sarah Bella. Four lovely days, holed up in a lux hotel, writing, talking writing, drinking coffee and wine at all hours, hitting my steps goals, reward-based shopping. NOT vomiting from stress. Divine, over and over again.

Because I fret over everything, and have a writers’ ability to concoct doom scenarios, and being in a particularly dulled-by-endless-this-winter-omg mindset, I was convinced I’d be a total fail this retreat. I had goals for my retreat time, but no idea how to go about accomplishing those goals.

My day job is in trucking, and since late January, it’s been non-stop chaos. Shitty roads, broke-down trucks, accidents, stranded drivers, deathly cold, all the bad stuff and more. I haven’t had the time to do laundry or cook a decent meal more than once or twice a week, let alone write or think about writing.

I went into the retreat with all my WIPS exactly where I left them. No idea for the next chapter(s), next scene(s), next line(s). No brain space for it either. My brain was over-stuffed by lots of non-artistic things. I wrote, at first, non-creative things, but let me tell you: figuring out what to do at 4:10 in the morning, about the day’s deliveries, when I’ve got two call-ins and 3 less trucks than drivers, oh and a snowstorm is due to hit before noon; that’s very creative work. My head was overstuffed by day job minutiae, leaving no room for my stories to frolic.

I’ve faced plenty of empty pages. This was me facing an empty brain. Scary. Usually, I’m bursting with story stuff. Half-cooked premises. Snippets of dialogue. Very Grand Descriptions. What ifs and How Abouts. That morning, I had nothing.
Fate decided to be kind, in a backhanded sort of way. The hotel we were staying at suddenly changed their check in policy. Early check-ins were still a thing. A $50 extra thing. So, now kicking off the shoes, putting on sweat pants and writing down the words needed to put off for an hour and half.

To a burger joint for pre-noon beer. And chatting, and bitching and dumping out all of winter’s kvetches. And then venti iced coffees. Then to the room and the removing of uncomfortable clothes and the donning of ponytails and the dreaded empty brain staring down a half-written WIP.

Words came slowly at first. The sort of pick-pick-pick and re-start the same sentence eight times before deleting it altogether futzing. And then. Zoooooom. The beer, the talking, the wondrous expanse of 4 unfilled days, all earmarked for creativity. It re-set me. My brain tossed out all the day job crap, and got busy with its true work: making stories.

Lots of writing was wrote. A plot hole was partially filled. I felt good when we left.
I’m back in the grind, and the day job is slowly absorbing everything again. But I’m finding little corners to hide and think, to day dream and play with story ideas. Don’t know how long I’ll last before I’m swamped again, but I’m taking every day that I manage to keep my head above the next wave, and do a little bit of creating as a win.

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