Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Oft Beaten Path

Being the [mis] Adventures of a Struggling Author

This was going to start out as a short story. A quickie if you will, about an author – part auto-biographical, part fictionalised – who after years of writing and re-writing novels, novellas, short fiction, articles and the odd play or two [most of it unpublished], goes on a writing retreat to the mountains. From the moment she leaves her front door this writer is inspired to write and write and write. Unfortunately, for that author, I was going to kill her off on the very first day of her week-long retreat. Something to do with tourist buses, narrow winding roads and the best story she’s ever dreamt up.

On the first day of this writing retreat [my writing retreat, in fact] I felt, inspired yes, but also disjointed. A little bit like a phony. Actually, a lot like a phony. I’m dead certain that the tutor at this retreat is going to tell me my novel, which he has read the first chapter of several times, and by now has read the whole thing, is utter crap. Which would be a great pity, because I think the story is wonderful!

Interesting correlation between the fictional author and me on the inside. So, instead, I went for a walk up and down a few hills [one doesn’t come to the mountains for flat country-side after all], returned to my slightly disappointing room [more about that later], made myself a cuppa and had a lay down. My thinking was, at that point, that maybe I could lose the disjointed feeling if I had some semi-formal separation from busy real life to writing life and a nana-nap seemed like just the right action to take.

I lasted half an hour having spent the whole 25 minutes “writing” my feelings and five minutes worrying over whether I would be able to sleep later if I actually managed to fall asleep then. I promptly came up with some ideas, including the title for this piece and decided I should turn on my lap-top and physically write instead of just think.

Writer’s, well, I do anyway, come to terms with things in the form of stories. On the way to the mountains [Katoomba to be specific] I mentally started a memoir of sorts about the train ride I was undertaking – the old Victorian style houses I was passing, the people on the platforms, the book I was reading… I thought it quite a good story but dismissed it as not very market worthy unless I was famous [which I am emphatically not]. One day, perhaps, not today.

When I arrived at the retreat, an old art deco house that takes five writers at a time and has a great library, I mentally wrote a story about the disappointment I felt on being ushered to my room.

My room is at the end of the corridor. I like that. The writing part of my room is a separate room with a shared bathroom in between. I don’t like that. The other rooms have a writing “room” attached to the sleeping area. If I had one of those rooms I could sit at my laptop naked if I wanted to. Might be a bit chilly but I had the choice. I like the idea. However, my writing space is quite large and I do like that. It also over looks the courtyard on two sides. I like that too. My bedroom over looks the back yard and has a big tree that, in summer and with leaves on it, must look fantastic. My space covers two corners of the top floor, and if I didn’t have to share the bathroom would be perfect. I don’t like that my bedroom shares a wall with the bathroom and I dread to think that I’ll be laying in bed listening to people pissing and showering.

In the backyard, of which I have such a sunny aspect, is a studio room. I drip with jealousy of the writer who has that space. Should I come back at any time I shall specifically request the studio. I wonder if it has a private bathroom?

In the middle of all that mental complaining, my writer’s view notices that I may be aesthetically disappointed but that I’m on my second page and am moving on from that pretty darn quick.

After all, my desk is really large, not cluttered with the paraphenalia of a writing mum with three kids and someone will be supplying dinner at 7. I will eat, clean up my mess and then retire to my space to either write into the night or collapse in bed and get some sleep.

With that, I will depart from my first impressions of my first writer’s retreat and embark on phase two of this manuscript – second impressions, plans and how I got to be sitting in Katoomba at the end of winter while my family stays at home in Sydney.

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