I just realized I forgot to share with you that I received the most motivating rejection letter. It’s the reason I’m writing this from a tiny house in the Virginia mountains. The only way to get here is by traveling a dirt road for 20-25 minutes–with no cell reception. I have no cell service, spotty WiFi, and yesterday morning I had no heat. Although the latter was temporary and unexpected, I didn’t know about the deficit in digital communication until I was arriving and holding my iPhone up like a divining rod, wishing that Google Maps would get me to my destination.
Back to the reason I’m here. One of the agents I pitched at the Writers Digest Conference in August sent me a thoughtful rejection letter. She cited clear examples of story disconnects that prevented her from offering me representation. I agreed with her feedback and had been hoping for someone to pinpoint the issue. She said she would be “honored” to read a revised version. That is why I’m here off the very beaten path only in the company of my manuscript. I’ve been working on revisions a few early mornings during the week, but I needed dedicated time to get through the rest.
I found the tiny house on Airbnb. After I booked the dates and explained why I was coming, the hosts responded and said that I had picked the perfect spot–they are both writers as well!
It’s been a great place to write. I had planned to have a FULL weekend of uninterrupted writing. I wanted to arrive Friday night and check out very early on Monday morning….but by mid-morning on Saturday (yesterday) I had gotten through the thickest part of the work. Combine my unexpected progress with my fear of driving back up and over a mountain on a single-lane dirt (now muddy) road with no cell reception in the dark and cold early hours tomorrow morning, and I’ve decided to leave this afternoon instead. (I’ve seen MISERY, people!)
Other than ‘REVISE!’ on my calendar, I had no specific plan for the weekend. I brought groceries with me with the intent of staying put unless I felt the need to visit the town. I specifically looked for a rental that had an oven and fridge, and brought enough provisions to sustain me so that I could write distraction-free.
I arrived during the golden hour on Friday and, after coming to terms that I had no cell service, and getting just enough WiFi to message my husband that I arrived safely, I decided to embrace the connectivity challenge and spend the evening analog. With my creative journal and my business journal (yes, those lives need separation!), I opened to blank pages and started writing anything that came to mind, then clustering them in themes.
In my journals I wrote phrases and story ideas that came to me during my two-and-a-half-hour drive up. Ideas for writing workshops, readings I want to organize, and direction for my next book (more on that below). I article ideas and magazines that I’ve been intending to pitch, updates for my writer website, updates for my beekeeping website, literary journal submissions, updates for this blog, ideas for my next retreat, trips I’ve been meaning to plan for next year.
I got it all out.
Then I promised myself that as soon as I was done with revisions to my manuscript, I would tackle the clustered ideas. The next morning, I awoke to a chilly house. The heat unit had died. Grappling for Wifi, I was able to message the host on Airbnb. They apologized and offered to bring space heaters that afternoon. I donned two pairs of pants, two socks, and two shirts, and braced the chill until about 2p. I couldn’t take it anymore and I went to town, stopped in a few warm shops, and settled on the second floor balcony perch of a coffee shop (heat rises!) where I finished my revisions and formatted my manuscript just as they turned the lights off on me at 5p.
When I got back to the house, two space heaters and a brand new fuzzy blanket waited on the porch. 🙂
The question remained: What next? I took out the idea cluster and started pacing and talking through each one. (Yes, it’s good I’m isolated out here!) For an hour, all I could do was look at the ideas and not know which one to start first. This was true choice paralysis. All of them appealed to me, but knowing that everything else would be waiting to be done if I picked one, I couldn’t move forward.
Then I did what I think all writers should do when they’re blocked. I read. I read my journal entries from this time last year. Guess what? I was disappointed then that I was doing too much. “I want to spend more time at home and more time outside. I need more time for stillness and slowness,” I wrote last year.
So I took out the idea cluster and started crossing out sections. NO to article pitches. NO to workshops. NO to eBooks. NO to adding new freelance services. NO to more trips.
Just like the cell service and the heat, the relief and motivation that I felt were unexpected. I spent the evening creating a skeleton structure for my next book, a poetic collection of prose and verse, themed around honey bees. It’s divided by season and has a strong mix of haiku and haibun.
Now it’s Sunday and I’m putting together this update for you. I hope to leave you with three things:
- Make time away from home to create.
- Start saying NO.
- Look back and read.