Right when I started sliding into writing things I would never show other human beings (2009, if you don’t mind me getting all specific), I hit on a great idea. See, I was ready to write. It was as if I’d gathered a great big bundle of energy like a character in Dragonball Z, and just needed to find a planet to Hadouken! into oblivion. (Yes, jerks, I know that hadouken is Street Fighter and not DBZ, and if you knew that, too, you have no right to be getting all snippy with me.) Only I kept getting distracted by all the exciting toys in my house, so instead of destroying planets, I destroyed a bag of chips and watched television. Enter the great idea.
I’d go somewhere else.
It was simple. Beautiful. I’d get a hotel room, bring my laptop and a bottle of some kind of alcohol (for the Hemingway flavor, though he probably wouldn’t approve of my coming home with the bottle still 2/3 full), tell everyone they could speak to the voicemail if they called me and just write. It would be a retreat. A little Eric creative retreat. I’d write and write and write and come home with buckets of words. So, I booked a hotel in Virginia, bought (on Brennen’s suggestion) some 15 year old Laphroaig scotch and went to work.
The crazy thing? It totally worked. Like gangbusters. (Confession: I don’t actually know what a gangbuster is, or how well one works.) I spent the first day mostly puttering around the hotel room, sipping scotch and enjoying being free from all the human beings. By the evening, though, I found myself at the computer, working. Working a lot. I brought my laptop into the lobby, into the restaurant, outside. I worked on the bed and at the desk. My longest break was getting sushi for dinner, and even then I was getting myself ready for another sprint. I came home with a completed novella, just like I’d planned. It was awesome.
I did it again last year, this time in a downtown Pittsburgh hotel. I bought plum wine and sake (having recently read a book that made me obsessed with plum wine, but not so obsessed to make me forget that I would probably puke if I drank nothing but) and settled in. Same as last time: A slow start accelerating into furious planet destroying hadouken. It worked. It really, actually worked. If I was ready before going in, if I had the potential energy, the isolation nudged the boulder down the mountain.
The trick, I decided, was in knowing when what I needed was a total change of environment. At the right moment, the shock of stripping away everything comfortable was focusing. Being in a different chair at a different desk – away from cats and Erin and a Playstation – made it crystal clear I was going to work. Like sending e-mail to my brain in big, bold letters:
Writing time, dummy!
My brain got the message.
Last weekend, I hit a point in planning the novel where there was nothing left to do but write. First chapters are terrifying, though – a topic I’ll save for the first blog post after I finish said chapter – and I knew I was going to find it dangerously easy to punt on it for days or weeks. In fact, I’m sitting here having punted on it for days, so I think I knew what I was talking about. If I was going to get over the hump, I needed that big, bold lettered e-mail, and I needed it stat.
Tonight, I’ll be checking into a hotel in an undisclosed location and if I don’t have a first chapter on the other side, I’d be very surprised. I won’t be answering my phone or making calls, though don’t be surprised if maybe catch me online; I can occasionally flit – in a masculine way – into and out of a texty chat without losing my focus. It’s hard to say. All I know is that I’m shocking the system into getting over the scariest part of a new story, and I’m doing it by Sunday.
See you on the other side with something to show for it.