Tuesday night, and Carol and I are just home from an evening with Blue Canoe Writer’s Group, a weekly gathering of writers to share work and tell stories. Eugene, one of the members, collected us at 6.15pm and I quickly realised we were in the presence of a great raconteur. His poem about being stopped by the border police while admiring the desert in Arizona and threatened with deportation back to Mexico (or Russia, once they discovered that was his ancestry) was hysterical. Members gave other beautiful readings that made me want to be a poet… I’m looking forward to going back next week with some writing to share.
So – it’s now the creative time of the trip away – the four weeks of our residency, in which Carol and I settle in to the serious business of making new things – words, stories, images, artworks. At least that was my approach to it when we landed late last week. Let’s hurry up and get organised and get the nose to the grindstone.
But this time – unlike virtually all the other residencies I’ve been on – things are different because I’m here with someone else. For the first 24 hours that reality left me quite edgy. How were we going to work around each other? How would I stop myself being distracted by another person nearby? What if we skived off and had too much fun and didn’t get any work done? How could I make sure I really WORKED?
On the first or second evening I had a stern conversation with Carol in which I reiterated my commitment to the perspiration aspect of writing and the serious hard work, and then took myself off to bed. And then lay awake, remorseful and soul searching. When had I turned into such a totalitarian disciplinarian? What would happen if I allowed myself to remember the joy and pleasure of creativity as well as the work required? What if I took this chance of sharing a retreat with someone else as an opportunity to open up and learn something new about ways of creating?
Reader, I decided to do just that. I rose from my bed the next morning with a commitment to embracing joy and chaos as well as hard work – and to really really enjoying the sharing part of this residency.
What a relief. I’m finding I’m actually loving being here with someone else – not just anyone, but Carol with her quirky and unique approach to the world. I’m giving myself the freedom to play with other creative approaches over the month – and to enjoy the natural beauty Sitka has to offer. This, I believe, is all going to feed my writing rather than take away from it.
It’s a big change. I’ve done my share of hard working and rather lonely retreats. This one is different – it’s fun, it’s joyful, it’s unpredictable, it’s more expansive. And there’s someone at the end of the day to share a glass of wine or three and laugh about what we’ve been up to.
Yay. Thanks Cas.