Rainforest Writer’s Retreat and a lack of self-discovery

Posted on | March 8, 2009

Eagle over Lake Quinalt

I would like to say that my time at the Quinalt Rainforest Writer’s Retreat for 2009 resolved some questions for me about my writing habit obsession hobby career whatever one way or another, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. What I did learn is that the secret to productivity is to Turn Off The Goddamn Internet And Go Someplace Quiet. I had very slow wifi web-only (no email, no usenet, no last.fm, and no video feeds) access for five hours or so every day when the bar was open, and there was always a writer’s alley in the tables along the bay-window walkway that looked out over Lake Quinalt, but the most productive sessions, the ones that produced 1000 words an hour or more, were when I locked myself in my hotel room and just wrote.  While in the bar with the other writers, my word count dove to 300 words per hour.

I kinda like the Cult of Done, but I also have to face two uncomfortable facts. First, my ADHD, spurred by my constant need to be in interrupt mode when home with the kids, makes it hard to concentrate on anything for a week, and second, my best stories, the ones that have sold, have all been re-writes. Not “I agonized over this and re-wrote it five times looking for the story before I found it” re-writes, but the “I loved this story the first time I wrote it, and, upon re-writing, discovered a much better story, a story good enough that I convinced myself writing is worth the effort.”

Re-writing is so much harder than writing. It involves tracking and retracking, putting the plot up on the board and decididng what to keep and what to throw away, killing moments you cackled over the first time but that don’t contribute to the plot, theme, and characters you’ve come to love. Re-writing has no metric. There’s no word-count in a re-write. My re-written stories are always smaller than the originals.

My final word count for the weekend was 12,646 words, scattered through four Journal Entries, some Caprice Starr work, a Yowler short, and so on. My problem remains the same: I need to concentrate on one story long enough to get to done on it. And for that, I need to remind myself of why I love writing in the first place. The love is still there, but the reasons for that love seem to escape me these days.


2 Responses to “Rainforest Writer’s Retreat and a lack of self-discovery”

  1. Henrik Storner
    March 10th, 2009 @ 2:34 pm

    Your problem with gettings stories to the finish line might be more common than one would think. I tend to have a very similar problem, but in a quite different setting. I write open source software, so it is also done solely because I enjoy doing it, and just like You have lots of ideas for new stories, I have lots of interesting ideas for new add-ons and functionality for my software. Doing the first draft or prototype is easy – getting it “done” so it can be released can be really hard and usually takes a looooong time.

    And by the way, computer software also tends to improve upon a rewrite after the first enthusiastic prototype is done.

    I hope you do finish some stories. I probably look forward to reading your stories more than you would look forward to using my software 🙂

  2. Bonnie C.
    October 3rd, 2009 @ 3:49 pm

    Stumbled on this blog by accident in searching for info about retreats, and was glad for the insight about the retreat being hampered by availability of Internet and ADD (both of which are problems for me too!) A friend in one of my critique groups recently turned me on to this site:
    http://lab.drwicked.com/writeordie.html which you might like for increasing word count per hour. Anyhow, good luck to you, and thanks for sharing your opinion about Rainforest Writers Retreat!
    Bonnie C.

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