"I find myself drifting more and more into the web of poetry. I am not exactly powerless to prevent myself from these fantasies but they enlighten the heart and make great pleasure for the moment. They are so strong that the return to reality is accompanied by a sense of dread; and when a fantasy of this sort is interrupted, my mind retains the pleasurable anticipation of resuming the fantasy, even if it is forgotten--so that is if I were trying to remember the prospect of a treat or a surprise." 

--Allen Ginsberg, The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice

This week, I'm using some PTO and taking a writing retreat. Where? you ask. In my house.

I try to do writing "retreats" or intensives twice a year. They're only a few days long, 5 days or so. I've spent my last 2 fall retreats at the family's lake house in New Hampshire, which provides a different kind of intensity than a home retreat does--complete quiet, solitary dinners, lone kayaking and walks down the country road, no socializing after 6 or 8 hours of writing, etc. It can pretty lonely up there--but I come back with a ton of work done. And I will go there again this September (plus a road trip to Canada, which is a first). This week's retreat is a little lighter with socializing after 5 pm...if I want it.

The tough thing is, after that many hours of writing, it's hard to resurface. I know a lot of writers who have this problem. They require a buffer of sorts, a couple of hours at least where they're not necessarily required to talk to anybody but they try to do normal stuff like grocery shopping so they can get their heads back on straight. I call it my Disappearing Act, but sometimes--when it takes longer to "normalize" than I anticipate--it scares me a little.

Yesterday was the second day of the retreat. 115 pages of line edits on Novel #1, and intense diagramming of Novel #2, which is a crazy architectural take on a traditional narrative arc. It can be read 3 different ways: linearly, by specific chapter direction, or by code discovered within the text. I'm having so much fun with it. The narrative itself is done in storyboards, so it was a matter of cutting and pasting (literally) to see how the pieces of the storyboard fit naturally and where it needs more or less. This is the kind of work that can make me withdraw from society completely, if I start thinking about it too much.

So things like listening to Otis Redding, fixing a cocktail, and seeing the new Amazing Spider-Man film pulled me back into reality. I recommend going to see a movie as the best way to transition back after a long writing session.

Now...Day 3. Working on one of the essays for the collection, then back to diagramming in the afternoon. Then raising a glass to the writing, whether it is ultimately deemed good or bad down the road after revisions. You have to toast to the work itself, the act of a day's work, every once in a while.

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