Writer’s studio in the woods, episode 1

snowNearly a week has passed, and I’ve settled into a routine that, sadly, seems set to a clock 3 hours away: awake by 4 am, asleep by 8:30 pm. I sleep in one building, write in another, and eat in a third. There are other buildings here as well — studios for various creative activities — spread over several acres of land studded with pines, deciduous trees, shrubs, and a few low stumps marked with tall posts for the benefit of the snowplows. A road curves past one side of the campus, and early mornings I watch the headlights’ reflected paths cross the ceiling of my dorm room.

This is a quiet time of year for this community, with few visitors — just 7 staff, plus two resident artists (I’m one; the other is a painter). This weekend a large group is coming in, and before they arrive the painter and I will help a staff member flip the mattresses in all the dorms. (If it’s been more than 6 months since you flipped your own mattress, you’re falling behind.) About once a week, we have a communal meal, cooked by our chef/ceramicist; otherwise we’re on our own. Three times a week, dishes get washed — I’m on duty today, so I’ll be busy after lunch working my way through a weekend’s worth of bowls, plates, mugs, and silverware (someone else gets the pots).

labyrinthOutside my studio is a labyrinth. It’s a triple spiral, each feeding into the next, with no set starting or ending point. You just walk until you feel you’re done, moving into and then out of each spiral, completing the sequence of three as often as you like. My predecessor this morning was accompanied by a dog. Its paw prints rarely strayed from the path. If only we could all move so neatly through life.

seed-podsAfter breakfast, I start writing, although I fear this mostly looks like me staring at my notes pinned to the corkboard in front of me. I’m at that stage in this manuscript when I have mostly doubts about it — the characters are insipid, the plot pointless, the writing frustratingly arduous. But I’m familiar with this feeling and know it will pass. It comes most often when I’m facing a major revision of something I thought, several weeks ago, was really clever but now see as moving my characters in the wrong direction. So, it’s time to stop wasting time and get back to work.

About Lizzie Ross

in no particular order: author, teacher, cyclist, world traveler, single parent. oh, and i read. a lot.
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4 Responses to Writer’s studio in the woods, episode 1

  1. calmgrove says:

    That revision of a protagonist’s character causing heartache is one I’ve just had with a radio-scriptwriting exercise for my writing class. I’m not sure if a change of scenery (your situation sounds semi-idyllic, beds and dishes notwithstanding!) would have helped me as much as an imminent deadline!

    • Lizzie Ross says:

      Yep, deadlines are key. Self-set ones are generally too mushy, but at least they’re something.
      My situation is definitely all idyllic. I look on the chores as a type of meditation — it’s all good.
      Good luck with your writing class, Chris. It’s great to see your creations on your blog.

  2. chris Arbuckle says:

    I’d been eager to read about your daily life there as well as learning more about your surroundings. Good post.

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