I ran away this weekend. I ran away to write. It seems odd to have to do that. Shouldn't a writer---one who writes about things connected to other humans, like dogs, art, and the natural world--be able to write among her peers? I don't think so.
There are so many distractions. Hardwood floors: spotted and dotted with dust bunnies. Answering machine: LED light commanding me to answer that person's message. Television: how can one NOT watch Olympic competition? Front yard's berm: yes, those shrubs need to be cleaned up.
So if I stay at my house, with my canine and human roomies, I'm not going to get the desired number of words turned out. Won't happen. Just won't happen.
What's a writer to do? That's easy. Run away. Find a place where the dust bunnies and the answering machine and the TV and the yard can't find me. Hide out. For me, this weekend, it was in a little two-bedroom house in a mountain town. There was no internet. There was no cable. There was no Starbucks with WIFI. The laptop awaits. Gotta write. Gotta hide out and write.
The monastic tendencies of writers intrique me. Lots of religions have hermits, who hide away to gain spiritual insights. In fact, the voluntary separation from society is a human archetype, behavior imbedded deep within all of us. It's something that mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote about frequently. In "A Hero with a Thousand Faces," he said a hero, after receiving an important spiritual message, has to leave his society and head out on a solitary trek. The journey will be filled with threats, most often head-on encounters with death and sexuality. A safe return means the hero has been victorious in challenging these huge life-truths. Campbell compared the motif to the steps in human psychological development; we leave the safety of our parents, head out on our own and, if our encounters with dangers are successful, come back home, bringing great gifts to our tribe.
So, I fancied myself a heroine, heading out on this writing trek. My intent was to encounter, once more, some of the darkest moments in my life. Because one of my projects involves responding to the loss of a spouse, when I work on it I'm immersed in sorrow and anger and reverie and anguish. It's not the kind of thing I can do most effectively surrounded by the distractions of my daily life.
The decision to hide out was a good one. The laptop, the dog, and me made a fine team. Words poured out of the keyboard. Chapters were outlined. Query letter to publishers was polished. An Excel spreadsheet was even built, categorizing publishers who might offer the most promise and highlighting critical information about topics like simultaneous submissions and agents.
I returned from the escape feeling satisfied. I made some progress on my writing goals. So what if I had to run away to do so? There's a long, long history of humans having to escape their tribes to make spiritual progress. I'm in good company.