The Middle Third: All By Myself
The Solo Writing Retreat
First, a note for Los Angeles based writers: Bestselling authors Jade Chang and Ann Friedman (also known as Midwives of Invention) are hosting a workshop. It’s about Big Ideas. I hear this all the time: “I’ve got a great idea for a book/essay/script but I don’t know where to begin.” This workshop is full of actionable techniques for development as well as a lot of nurture. Honestly, it sounds like an Edenic writer’s room. Links with more info.
Now onto solo writing retreats…
It’s not surprising that given everything she’s written, Virginia Woolf’s most enduring contribution is the oft-quoted “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
I believe we recall this, and not Septimus’s suicide or the colors in Lily Briscoe’s painting, because the social and material condition of women is a topic still hot to the touch (Woolf goes on to say, in the same sentence, “that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of women and the true nature of fiction unsolved.”) I love to talk about the bind of money and art (and I have a piece coming out soon that touches on it), but I’m going to focus on why I need a room. And why occasionally I need not just a room but another house, another county, occasionally another country.
Periodically, I want to leave my marriage. I love my husband deeply. We have a relationship that I’m proud of. We have, and always have had, the most fun. I love parenting with him. I value his insight, his totally foreign brain, his opinions on what I see, hear, and read. When I wake up and find him next to me, or look at him in the middle of some epic family meltdown where everyone is screaming, I think, “I’m so grateful it’s you.”
But I do not feel built for marriage. Every piece of nonfiction I’ve ever written is about the ambivalence I feel inhabiting prescribed roles and carrying responsibilities therein. I am always, always fighting the desire to flee.
I brought this urge, which had consolidated into a trapped, claustrophobic despair, to therapy recently. I explained to her that I felt like my work was being swallowed whole. Like I was being consumed by everyone else’s needs. That I couldn’t be the writer or mother I wanted to be unless I had my own space. My therapist said, almost smiling, “You don’t need to leave your husband. You need to go away and write.”