Someone Please Invent Emergency Writing Retreats for Mamas

jodi-comic-3-29-11Here in New York, summer has sprung. Coats are shed. Sandals stepped into. Sprinklers turn on in playgrounds. Winter is a distant memory.

The promise of weeks and weeks of uninterrupted awesome, commonly called the summer vacation, stretches in front of you, as well as the challenge to reinvent yourself…to be different somehow when fall rolls around with its Back to School specials and freshly sharpened pencils. I suppose that’s why in addition to the calendar of fun that the Chicklet (now a seven year old!) is forcing me to make, I am hankering to carve aside some time for reflection and work.

When I became a mom, my mom-writer mentor said your time will never be the same. Interruption will be your only constant. Kids interrupt you. They rely on you. They need your help. They’re stuck. They fall. They spill. They need to get something down from a high shelf. As a work-at-home mom, my work has changed immensely from the dusk to dawn at the writing desk, sipping hot tea as I type away on the laptop, a shag rug at my feet. Now work comes in spurts and rarely has the level of focus I like, except when they go to sleep which after you unpack the day gives you two hours max…not counting the time spent surfing the web and catching up on TV.

Small wonder that along with dreaming of a world where I cash in on the sleep my kids owe me, my writing mom soul is becoming obsessed with a summer retreat. I get this urge every summer, but by then of course deadlines are gone, residencies are only available the following year and I am really bad at planning that far in advance. And then many of the residencies are two weeks, four weeks, a month. It’s hard for a mom-writer to go away for that time. Heck, it’s hard enough for a mom-writer to go out when it’s bedtime.  And then the expense and the solitude…I don’t know how I’d deal with a month of quiet reflection, and I know my bank account couldn’t handle it either. A girl like me needs the emergency retreat: immediate gratification, four days max, a writing retreat boot camp if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor.

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The idea of this emergency retreat has taken hold, especially now I’m reading more about self-directed retreats. Now these sound like my speed. I don’t have to wait on anyone or apply or submit a work sample. I can just book a room somewhere for a couple days and go. And then there’s a moment’s pause: is being a solo female traveler on a self-directed retreat such a terrific idea? I don’t know…but it’s exciting, intoxicating: the thought of the uninterrupted hours, the planning of future scripts, the thoughtful scenes I’ll write, the satisfaction of plowing ahead with projects I’ve been writing piece-meal and looking up a couple hours later to find you’ve added fifteen pages to the count.

And I guess, as things start to come together on the old idea  (crazy Bollywood musical), the inevitable question is what next? A period of quiet reflection seems like exactly what this mama needs to figure it out..though I’m still not sure if, or where, I’ll find it.

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