Run Away! Run Away!

March 10, 2013 § 3 Comments

I ran away last week. I packed up my clothes and my computer and drove two and a half hours away to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, otherwise known as introverts’ heaven.  I showed up on my own schedule, and when I got to the Fellows Residence, it was deserted. There was no welcoming committee, nobody to tell me where to go or what to do. Isn’t there always supposed to be someone to tell you where to go and what to do? I saw more cows and horses around than people.

I found my way to an office where I announced my arrival. “I’m here for a residency?” I said. The calm, quiet woman at the desk nodded. “OK,” she said. “Your keys and everything you need are in your mailbox in the residence. “ I had a mailbox!

“Do I need to do anything?” I asked.

“No, that’s it. Your studio should be ready.”  I had a studio!

The envelope of papers I got had some advice:

“Please do not visit anyone’s studio unless you are expressly invited.”  And:
“Do not feel rebuffed if fellows choose to work, rather than engage in conversation. We are here to take advantage of the quiet time to work that VCCA allows.”

These are my people. I settled into my room and my studio and turned on my computer. I’ve had a novel in my head for a while, and part of it had made it to the page. The rest was waiting in a jumbled pile in my brain. There was always something more important than really diving into it: dinner, grading papers, laundry, TV. But now, I had a week (which I found out was no time at all! People come here for six weeks!) to crank out as many words of this story as I could. Nobody cared about anything about me, except that I was a writer. It said so on my name tag.

Turns out that once you decide to focus on one thing though—they would take care of meals, cleaning, a space—you have to face the fact that there is nothing holding you back from your own work, but you.

Each morning, I would get up and force myself to dive in. Sometimes it smarted. It took a while to quiet my mind and listen only to the words I wanted to put out there. There is a single bed in each studio (for naps!) And I took advantage of it.  I told you, these are my people. I stopped for meals with other writers, artists, composers, and then I would slip into bed to read until I fell asleep, exhausted from trying to make something out of air. Nobody expected anything from me all week, except maybe the horse I fed apples to and me. Nobody is asking me to write a book. As the wire walker in a movie Jeff and I watched, Man on Wire says, there is no why.

I expected to get words on a page, and I did. I have no idea if they’re good, and I’m not going to show them to anyone for a while, but they are there. For that, and for this place, I am very grateful.

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