Tuesday, January 5, 2016

My residency, or the persistence of the Yeti



Of course I have dreams of Yaddo. Of MacDowell. Of a return stint at the Fine Arts Work Center. Of writing on the coast or in a castle. Like most writers I know, I keep an eye on deadline calendars, and I submit those residency applications with their requisite fees. Then I wait and hope for good news.

Recently, though, I remembered something: I’m a creative person, and if I envision it, I can make it happen.

Right now, I am writing to you from a homemade residency. I’m in a rustic Ozark cabin, complete with fireplace and rough-hewn wood furniture. My fridge is stocked. My computer is humming. I’m surrounded by books and pens and notebooks. Any wet diaper or cat throw-up or overdue homework assignment may as well be on the moon.

My little slice of heaven is affordable because it’s off-season in the Ozarks. The cabin is situated in a resort that I’m told is like a small city during the summer months, but right now my windows are the only ones lit up. I don’t hear any traffic; in fact, the only sound outside is whatever it is that is determined to chew through the logs of my cabin. Squirrel or Sasquatch, I can’t worry about it. I’m here to write.

My residency was a gift from the nicest person I know—and I wish we all had a champion like that, someone who believes in us and in our art entirely, without reservation. I believe in him the same way, and next month, I’ll return the favor.

In fact, this is a gift we give each other every other month. It’s a chance to retreat from our dailiness and get things done. Unless it isn’t. Sometimes it’s a chance to get away and watch bad TV, or to take too-long baths until we’re half-human, half-prune.

We do agree about this: Sometimes writing is about writing, pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. But sometimes it’s about clearing mental space and tickling the imagination out into it to play. We don’t judge our experiences; we just go in with what we need for whatever happens. I brought some books on poetics and some new collections to read, but I also brought a mystery novel and everything I need to give myself a mani-pedi. There’s a TV with a pretty good cable package, and that usually means somewhere there’s a rerun of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which may be exactly what I need.

I have to confess, it was hard to get out of bed this morning. I visited the bathroom, which I am explicitly not referring to as a potty for a few days, and I made a pot of coffee, but then I was back in bed for another hour. I got the entire mattress to myself. There were no kids. No cats wedged their heads under my sleeping palm to coax a sleepy ear-scratch out of me. My usual position has me one-cheeking off the mattress, but I went full Vitruvian Man on that sucker last night, and it was heaven.


I did get up, though, at 9 (about five hours later than usual), and I took care of a little business, foolishly—a few student recs, some e-mails, the kind of stuff that an academic always has simmering on the back-burner. But then I wrote. And drank burnt coffee. And listened to teeth on the outer wall. Give that Yeti enough time and he’ll eat this whole cabin up, right down to the bentwood rocker and the lamp made out of antlers. I admire that can-do attitude.

12 comments:

  1. I send my writer out as well, at least twice a year. I hope to be able to send him on these kinds of retreats in the near future.

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    1. I like the fact that there are all kinds of price points for this kind of thing, from housesitting (free, or you get paid!) to a luxury spa ($$$$). AirBnB has some interesting options. We've also gone with hunting cabins.

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  2. Love it. I've been thinking of heading to Woodstock,NY during the winter break. Maybe I'll go for it.

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    1. Do it! You owe it to your writing. :)

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  3. So happy for you, and what a great gift! What a great idea all around!

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    1. Thanks, Kathleen! Get yourself one of these. :)

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  4. Great idea, I'm doing the same right now in northern Maine (talk about off season!). Good luck.

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    1. Sounds beautiful! Hope you get a lot done. I've been half working, half chillaxing. :)

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  6. Happy to see you getting some writing time. I guess this is how Dolly Parton writes. She runs off to a cabin in the woods and fasts/meditates then writes her butt off.

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  7. I was looking for an article about it and found this. Lovely song, actually. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vS04PDfyJ8U&feature=youtu.be Make something wonderful, Craigo.

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    1. Thanks! You should do this, too. So worth it for moms! And I love Dolly so much.

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