Friday, July 14, 2006

Writing Getaway, Day 1


As I write this, I’m by myself in a hotel room enjoying a moment I’ve planned for weeks: a private, uninterrupted block of writing time. I’m proud that I orchestrated a chance to work undistracted by piles of laundry, children who insist on eating at least once a day, a dog who thinks she must be on my lap or will die of tactile neglect, and telephone calls for my teenagers, or from my mom, who regularly asks me to call and verify that her answering machine is working. It usually isn’t. And usually, neither am I.

So here I am, in Santa Claus, Indiana, where it’s eerily Christmastime year round at Holiday World theme park.

To be honest, I’m in this room for three reasons. First, severe allergies are keeping me indoors this summer. Second, I can’t ride anything more exciting than an escalator. Third, even if I drugged myself up, planted myself on a bench, took out the laptop and started to write, I would not be productive with Santa and his elves roaming around me. (Why is that scene so disturbing?)

A pint of cherry tomatoes and a soda ago, I finished a book about creative writing. Experts always give the same advice to novices: “You MUST write! Regularly! Constantly! Incessantly! Even in your sleep! C.S. Lewis never slept unless writing! If you don’t have writing materials when inspiration hits, etch the seed of genius into your forearm with your Denny’s toothpick—whatever it takes, for the sake of all that is high and noble, keep writing!”

I was just about to do that when I realized how tight my waistband was, so I changed into pajamas.

Complete quiet is unsettling, so I turned on the TV for a little white noise. An elderly nun was teaching a studio audience about women’s lack of modesty. Sister had seen a sign outside her church that said, “NO TANK TOPS” and asked another nun what a tank top was. Her reaction to the explanation was priceless. She paused for effect, leaned in toward the camera, twisted her mouth, and squeezed her brows together. She looked like John Hagee in a habit or Dana Carvey’s Catholic Church Lady.

Where was I? Oh yes, working on a laptop with keys just different enough from my regular keyboard to cause a typo every other word.

But now I’m ready. I’ve got a bag of little pastel party mints and a diet soda—diet because I don’t want to gain weight while I’m here. I checked myself in the mirror. If you’re going to spend more time sitting down to write, you’ve got to do something to avoid spreading out past the seat. Good thing I didn’t bring any chocolate.

I will need to check my email again, though, because I’m waiting to hear from an editor who said he’d read my writing over the weekend. It’s Tuesday already. I wonder what the hold-up is. He’s probably distracted. Maybe he’s just procrastinating giving me bad news. I hope it’s not the latter. If there’s one trait that I can’t stand, it’s procrastination.

OK, seriously, it’s time to write now—just as soon as I brush these mints out of my teeth.

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