Early in July, I became the owner of a home that will give our family the space we’ve long needed. I also became a de facto general contractor. My fix-it list is rapidly growing; my word count is not. How easily non-writing work can fill the time we set aside precisely for the page — especially when such busyness sometimes gives us more sense of accomplishment on some days than the few paragraphs we may add to a work in progress …
I’m trying to travel light next week for Vortext, a lovely writer’s salon hosted by Hedgebrook and the Whidbey Institute on an island just outside Seattle. I drew the Hanged Man this week as I started packing in earnest, an apt reminder to approach the task with — wait for it — non-attachment. I’m always afraid I’ll forget something I need!
On a deeper level, the card is an invitation to enter this writing retreat without placing too much pressure on that time, rare as such a getaway is for me. Not that there isn’t opportunity in the everyday to do some kind of writing — I’m passionate about supporting other writers in cultivating windows, large and small, for their practice — but three days devoted solely to that work is something to be relished.
“Finding our ways as writers,” Louise DeSalvo writes in The Art of Slow Writing, “is a daily, ever-changing process. As soon as we've figured out how to work, something happens and everything falls apart and we need to learn how to work all over again.”
That is what the past few weeks have been about for me. I've been observing where my writing process has needed to shift around the changes in our family routines — a change of school, a change of schedule, a change in the availability of our childcare. It’s been messy. But to my relief, now that October has arrived, I feel some stability returning in spite of the loss of so much familiar structure.