Back in March, in the before times, I had booked myself a four day writing retreat at a lovely local hotel. I almost cancelled it as the pandemic was officially declared just a few days before I left and concerns were starting to rise. But I didn’t have to travel far so I decided to go because I needed it.
The first day was glorious. A beautiful view. No one to distract me from my manuscript. I was focused and productive.
The second day I started to get distracted by the news and texts from my family about schools closing etc. But I tried to remain focused on my book and somehow managed a couple of thousand words.
On the third day our province declared a state of emergency, schools were officially closed and my youngest sent me a text saying she thought she “might have a little fever.” That was the last straw. I checked out early, got the ferry home and stayed home for the next six months.
Somehow, during the months at home while we were baking and watching movie marathons and trying not to dwell on the actual state of the world, I managed to finish that book I had been working on and get it ready for submission. Now I had to start a new one.
I love starting new books. Getting to know the characters better. Figuring out how the plot is going to unravel and twist back up again. Starting a new book during 2020 turned out to be a lot harder.
There just wasn’t one idea that I loved enough to stick with. I couldn’t focus long enough to get into the heads of my characters. I kept trying, forcing myself to wake up early and write, and eventually I had 30,000 words of a book that was okay.
And then Maggie spoke to me. She had an interesting story and really wanted me to write it. It was the first time I had felt excited about a character in a long time. So I let her in and started to write.
But I knew I needed to give her my full attention if I was really going to make progress. So I decided to chance fate and book another few days away for myself. I needed somewhere close to home where I could just hole up on my own and write. I needed to go to my happy place. The cabin on a lake my family rents every summer.
The day of my retreat kicked off with a storm. One that had news outlets warning of power outages and falling trees. I told myself, in the way that one does while trying to will something to be true, that there was no way it would affect where I was going.
(You can see where this is going right?)
There was no power at the cabin. There was only one grocery store in town that had power and everyone was shopping there. I couldn’t buy any food that needed refrigeration. I cried when I got back in the car and seriously considered driving the few hours back home.
The gas stove allowed me to boil water for coffee and heat up food. I set up candles throughout the house and read by candlelight while waiting for the power to come back on.
It finally did so at 2am when all the lights I had tried turning on earlier came on and woke me up in a dazzling display of brightness.
After a rough start, I was treated to four fantastic days of writing, reading and binging episodes of The West Wing. I drank lots of coffee and wine, ate mainly snacks but sometimes an actual meal and on the last night I let my husband come up to join me for our first time together without the kids since February.
By the time I packed up to come home I had written more than 10,000 words and had a clear direction for this book that I am hoping to finish during NaNoWriMo. More than that, my soul was refreshed and I felt ready to go back to the reality of life.
These memories will be etched into my heart forever.