Rewrite #8: The Allure of a Remote Writing Location
I always looked romantically upon stories of writers who sequestered themselves in remote locations to have peace and quite so that they can write without disturbance. When the opportunity for two months on an island in the Adriatic presented itself, I jumped on it thinking, I’ll finish a rewrite on a current screenplay and write a first draft of a new one.
After all, fresh sea air, pine trees and gentle temperatures would stimulate my brain cells and my body would be fueled by locally grown produce, fish and cold pressed olive oil.
The reality was a tad different. First, I was jet lagged for a week. Second, new environments bring new sounds, creeks and energies that one must get used to.
But, write I did. Martin and I had several solid review/edit sessions via SKYPE. We accomplished rewrite #8. But the output stopped there (this was about 5 weeks into my stay). My routine, namely, had become as follows…woke up around 9 am, went to the local coffee shop for the morning latte, breakfast, and to reread my notes. Then I’d work a couple of hours until lunch. After lunch I’d rest a bit in the shade with a couple good books (I re-read the Great Gatsby, after several decades, and came to the conclusion that for books the plot is truly secondary when the writing is superb….i.e. I enjoyed it.) The following passage was a particularly inspiring character description, I found.
He smiled understandingly—much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced—or seemed to face— the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression on you, that, at your best, you hoped to convey. Precisely at that point it vanished-and I was looking at an elegant young roughneck, a year or two over thirty, whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd.
After my reading which was often accompanied by a short nap (breeze, hum of cicadas, it’s like hypnosis). Then I wrote some more. But the sun started setting and it was time for my “Inspirational Hike” as I called it, through some mountains, for about 90 minutes, to fill my lungs with island fresh oxygen, and fumes from hundred-year-old trees. Great ideas I had on many of those walk/hikes. And I wrote them down.
Upon return I’d jump in the sea to cool off, refresh and then, dinner, followed by hanging at the town square where the nightlife is; and by nightlife, a local bar, and occasional concerts in the local church.
The problem with this routine became, that I extended many of the activities at the expense of writing. My morning coffee turned into a 2 hour chat with the locals. My book reading sessions lasted a few hours, and naps became mandatory.
And so little by little, I stopped writing all together and my brain turned to mush (was this a form of meditation, or the “empty brain” as martial artists call it? I didn’t have any new ideas during my walks. I didn’t take notes. I didn’t even think. I just was. I had fully disconnected. And the best part was that I was OK with it. Normally, I would have panicked about NOT writing for 3 weeks. But somehow my brain knew this was not a problem, but simply a synapse resting period.
Now I am back and getting back into the swing of things. But I can wholeheartedly say that the disconnecting part was a great writing tool. I think I’ll repeat.