Yesterday marked the end of my annual writing retreat. I’m not actually home yet—that happens tomorrow. And whilst playing “Where in the World is KT Now?” is fun, I am looking forward to seeing my furry little weirdo.
But retreating went very well, thank you. Over the course of five writing days, I wrote five complete short stories. I also used the midweek “break day” to make a sizeable dent in my interactive fiction novel.
On the whole, I’m very pleased with my output. January/February were so consumed with long-form projects between the Beer Magic Novel and Six Stories – the 3D Adventure, it felt good to sink back into short fiction.
I’ve written before about what this retreat means to me: the camaraderie, the fellowship, the love. It’s also one of the most productive weeks in my year. Most of the short fiction I’ve sold has originated here. So that’s all great.
But I’d like to tell you about a particular moment I had. It was on the retreat’s final day. I finished up my story in the late afternoon, with plenty of time before our evening readings. So as per my wont, I hopped in the hot tub.
It was nearing the golden hour, sunlight spilling over the mountains. The sky was endless, cloudless blue; the woods rang with the singing of birds and frogs. I settled into the hot tub with a book. My beer rested beside me.
And sitting there—sated with finished stories, dear friends typing inside, spring unfolding across the mountains—I could think only:
Enjoy this now. It won’t always be like this.
You see, we hit the ground running hard once I get back. Then the deadlines return, and the worries, and the scrabbling. And it doesn’t ever really stop, that scratching and hunger.
But in that moment, there was only contentment. For the first time in a long time, it felt like I could take a breath—stealing a little moment amidst everything else going on.
They’re important, those pockets of peace. They give us a chance to rest and prepare for the next section of road ahead. I leave this retreat feeling so grateful.
Now the race begins again. But I’m ready, I’m rested. I hope you’ve got your peaceful waystations as well!
What I’m Listening To This Week
Another ballad! An encounter between troll-maiden and knight! I love seeing how some of the lyrics mesh with Old English cognates (“innan solen upprann” comes to mind). This was pretty much my main jam for one of my stories, alongside the “Rolandskvadet” of a few weeks previous!
What’s the hardest part of writing?
Is it coming up with ideas? Is it thrashing out a plot? Getting to know your characters? Sitting down to write the thing? Editing? Peeking through your fingers at the edits? Hitting the send button?
Well, everyone’s different. For me, the hardest part of writing is the time between sending a piece off and hearing back. That dead space when I know the other person has it, but I don’t know
- What they think.
- If they’ve read it.
It’s awkward. You’re dying to know, and you have to wait: whether it’s an agent, an editor, an actor, a beta, or even your mom. Patience—I work on the deep breaths.
Because there isn’t all that much you can do, other than wait. Two days ago, I had five separate pieces in various people’s hands. By yesterday, I’d heard back on two (both good news, incidentally, but I’ll leave that for another post). As for the other three…I know two will take a long time, and I’m not expecting to hear anything for a while. The other…I just don’t know.
As hard as it is, don’t obsess. Put it out of your mind. Work on something else.
(All of the above are things I keep telling myself.)
Turns out I’m still in school, and for the first time, I have a bit of breathing space with the writing/podcasting. This dead space is a great time to actually make some progress on this, my last round of essays. I’ve also really enjoyed my forays into short fiction. Keep busy, keep doing things. Don’t stop just because you’re no longer clasping the piece in question to your chest.
It’s also a matter of sensitivity, I think. Hopefully, when you give people things to read, you have an idea of what else is going on in their lives. If it’s a friend, hopefully you know when they’re in the midst of essays, or when they have a flurry of work. If it’s an agent or editor, you can assume they’re juggling many different projects at once. When it’s time, your turn will come. But you’re not the most important thing.
These are good skills to cultivate in general. Patience. Perspective. (p)Sensitivity. I keep coming back to my favourite lesson learned in New Zealand:
I guess we’ll find out.
I need to get that put on a bumper sticker or something. Although, since I don’t drive, it might be kind of pointless. A fender sticker, maybe?
I need more coffee.