The Redwood Retreat

Once upon a time, in the fabled woods of the writing life, a quaint cottage nestled in the trunk of a giant redwood.  A magic garden provided food for its inhabitant(s) with just the tiniest bit of foraging; a fresh stream ran through the kitchen.  Inside the cottage stood a desk and many shelves of books, lovely novels that teased the imagination into ever-expanding realms. Endless stacks of paper remained perfectly aligned there by an array of fountain pens with all possible colors of ink and the smoothest tips.  Only the music of birds disturbed the air in that writer’s paradise, and the bold weaver of worlds woke up well-rested each morning, wrote several thousand words of brilliance before noon, and polished the previous day’s already-sparkling prose to greater clarity, humor, and communicative power in the afternoon.

Ah, to live there.  Ah, to have no obstacles to writing–no time management problems, no distractions, no depression or cynicism, no other job, no basic human urges to satisfy, no human relationships tempting us away from the paper and pencil, no headache-inducing stress that makes you watch television mindlessly for hours rather than writing.

Of course, nobody lives in the quaint cottage among the redwoods.*  I face a lot of obstacles to writing; this winter, job stress has been my major roadblock.  Often, too, I forget my own Glenn Beck rule of writing (my writing cannot possibly be worse than his, and he has the right to write and publish) and get bogged down in discouragement.  I’m not currently writing anything with hope of publication, so why take time away from my life to commit anything to paper or disk drive?  Why spend time on anything at all if it’s never going to reach a large audience or earn a lot of money?

But there’s a problem here:  in the redwood retreat, there isn’t all that much to write about.  Sure, it sounds pleasant for a few days of focused writing.  But without those very distractions, there isn’t a lot of life to convert into words.  My writing has no purpose if it does not strive to capture the contradictions and distractions of living, of teaching, of being a wife and gardener and writer. The obstacles do complicate the writing life, but without them is neither writing nor life.

*Except maybe Thomas Pynchon.  Although for all the trees his books have devoured–I’m not sure he’d want to live too close to them.  What if the Ents are real and want revenge?

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