Saturday, July 29, 2017

Writing Retreat

I spent the better part of this week at The Porches, a retreat for writers.  It was my birthday present to myself, to escape for a few days to the mountains to work on my book and to rest and to hike.  I did a bit of all three.  One of the other writers staying there came to the shared' kitchen while I was eating breakfast on my last day.  She was amused at the human capacity to forget what we've learned.  She was remembering how it takes some time to settle down to a writing rhythm, how she's learned that before and how she always forgets.  I also forget that.  The first day, I was so exhausted that all I could do was sleep.  And then I was disappointed in myself for not writing much.  The second day I got up early and took a walk and puttered and did some writing, but it was hard to settle in.  By the third day, I got right up and started writing.  When I do these retreats, I need to remember to plan to stay for a whole week if I really want to get something done.  Especially if I also want to hike.

My goal had been to finish the current draft of my book.  I knew I needed to finish some editing on the 2nd section and complete the third section and Epilogue.  At the beginning of the retreat the book was about 112 pages.  Now it is 135.  I did do a bit of polishing of the second section.  Now I'm thinking there may be 4 sections instead of three and the Epilogue turned into part of the 4th section, and I need to add a whole new beginning to the second section, and I wrote a bunch of new material that reads like a diary - first this then this then that happened.  So that will need lots more revision.  It's like a big sticky gooey mess, and I don't know how to clean it up.

Sermons.  They're not easy, but I can hold them in my head.  They are 4-5 pages, space and a half, 14 pt. font.  I haven't forgotten the beginning by the time I get to the end.  I have a scripture passage to work with, and I understand the structure.  Books are long, and I forget what I've already said.  This piece started out as a short essay for a magazine.  But it has grown and grown and grown, and I can't wrap my brain around it.

It reminds me of a time at my parents' house when my mother was trying some kind of hash brown/potato dish in the microwave.  The microwave was new to us at the time.  Now usually we had real potatoes, but I guess she was trying something new.  At any rate, the hash browns never cooked.  They kept growing and growing, and the more she cooked them, the more they expanded like paste.  We laughed so hard.  I think she had to throw the whole thing out.  Hopefully that won't happen with my book!

After writing all morning on the third day, I treated myself to a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway and a hike to Crabtree Falls.  I wanted to get into my body in a way that only a strenuous hike can do.  The first time I hiked Crabtree Falls was with two guy friends of mine on a cold November day in 2003.  Over the years I've hiked them many more times.  The trail is 1.7 miles straight up with switch backs that carry you close to the falls and then away through the trees and then back to the rushing water once again.  At the top there's a view of the surrounding mountains.  I don't always make it to the top, but this time I did.  Whenever I'm in the area, I can't resist returning to the Falls; they are like a magnet pulling me in and restoring me.

Now it's time to get back to my sticky, expanding book and hope that I can knead it into something readable.




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