Like most writers I squeeze in writing time (at home) when I can: before work, after work, on weekends, on the days I don’t teach. I’ve learned that making time for writing is a skill set wholly separate from the writing itself. I work on my poems or stories for a few hours and then I’m called away into my responsibilities.
The first few days of the residency I adapted to the apartment, started getting to know Cecilia (she shares the apartment) and faced the task of uninterrupted writing for thirty days. I developed a routine: wake up, make coffee, make my bed, sit down at the desk and start work. After some initial struggles I discovered that I could write (so long as I shifted between projects) for an entire day. I thought that I would continue to switch between the poems, short stories and the novel. However, I have focused exclusively on the novel for the past eight days. My goal is no longer to work a set number of hours but to achieve a word count: 1,000 or more words each day.
Yesterday morning as I waited for my scones to bake in the main kitchen, Natalie (one of the painters) commented that she felt as though she was sinking into her artwork in ways that she wasn’t able to while at home in Dusseldorf. I liked the word choice. It feels that way for me, too. Sinking in. A process of immersion. The world of my novel and its characters are incredibly vivid. I’m not distracted by my Regular Life, and so the boundaries of me seem to have become porous. My day-to-day has fused itself to these imagined worlds.
I had thought that the residency would be about getting work done — and it is, of course, but I’m also discovering what happens when all of my time is devoted to writing. I wake up inside of Arliss’ head, my central character, and feel as though I’m living and moving inside his world of early-last-century Texas.
Does this mean the story I’m writing is better than what I create at home in California? Time will tell. At the moment I’m too close to it to know.