Hello, all! Welcome to a new segment about creative writing at Grab the Lapels. Lemme explain:
Last summer, my husband surprised me with a birthday gift: a cabin in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where I would stay and have my own little writing retreat. Later that summer, I found another cabin in Indiana and repeated the process. Here’s was the problem: when you’re in a cabin, you spend a lot of time fearing spiders and squashing mosquitoes, and you never interact with anyone. There is no “schedule” to follow, and thus you end up reading a lot, which you justify because you have a blog. You also Google “ice cream near me” frequently.
Last weekend, however, I went to a writing retreat that was organized by a non-profit in my city. We spent two full days in a gorgeous house along Lake Michigan. There was a loose schedule, meals made for me, and a bedroom with a window that attracted bees that couldn’t get in (hooray!). I wrote over 4,000 words on the retreat and tooted my own horn for several days.
The problem with writing retreats is that they don’t often keep a writer writing once he/she returns home. I decided that’s not how writers should write and came up with “Accountabuddy Saturdays.” In case you couldn’t guess, “accountabuddy” is a portmanteau of accountability buddy. I shared my idea with the 7 other people who attended the retreat and felt hopeful. “9:00AM,” I wrote in our Facebook group. “We’re meeting at The Local Cup.” People described other obligations and a refusal to get up so early. I still went in case someone was shyly not telling me they would join me in writerly silence for one hour.
Well, The Local Cup is a pay-it-forward establishment. You give the amount of money you think you should pay for your drinks, and if you can’t pay, you don’t. Neat, right? The problem is, I forgot such a place turns into a community meet-and-greet, with everyone chatting and children tearing around in a small space, doing weird things that would make me flip my lid, like riding on their parents’ legs.
The goal was one hour. I made it through, but with several interruptions. In a community-based cafe, everyone wants to know what you’re doing. “Grading or writing for a grade?” they asked over the din. “Working on a short story I wrote last weekend,” I replied. I had a print-out copy of my so-far seven-page story and was focusing on tightening the diction so I had a better sense of the tone.
One young man told a stylish old lady that I was a professor at his college. “Hi, honey!” she yelled. I tried to focus on whether I should use alliteration or assonance in one sentence. “I don’t mean to disparage your profession by calling you honey!” she yelled. I told her it was okay, that I thought she “looked sweet as pie herself.”
After I left, I realized that my “accountabuddies” may never meet up with me in real life. For some, the writing retreat was it. Typically, I’m the same way, but teaching Introduction to Creative Writing this past semester has me more driven to practice what I teach, especially about risk-taking and ignoring myths about inspiration. Instead, my accountabuddies may be you, or even this e-space. Since I’ve decided to write a post about how it goes each week, I’ll feel responsible to stick to my commitment. Thanks for joining me!