Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Writer Takes a Vacation

It's the lipstick that has discolored the marble.

I returned this week from a family vacation. For ten days – ten days! – I wrote nothing more substantial than a text message. That’s a little distressing for someone like me who spends a good part of most days spinning stories.

For reading I brought only my Kindle and the latest issue of Poets and Writers, which features residencies, conferences, and book festivals – working vacations for people like me. I’ve attended precisely one conference where I wasn’t on faculty, and that was Squaw Valley Writers, an outfit I can’t recommend enough. A festival would be fun, but again the only ones I’ve attended were in-state, and I was part of the program.

I’ve been tempted by residencies - and Cinthia Ritchie’s recent blog post on residencies tempted me even more. But I’m fortunate to have easy access to two retreat-like settings where I can write – our home here on Hiland Mountain, and a cabin at Matanuska Glacier. Still, there’s something appealing about other artists quietly creating around you. Hedgebrook is on my list to apply for one day.

When he’s working on a novel, David Vann writes every day, vacation or no. There’s a lot to be said for momentum, but when I’m vacationing with family, they come first, hands down. I could get up early and write, but then my mind would divide itself for the rest of the day, and I’d rather be fully present with those I love much and see seldom. So I left the revision projects on my Kindle for airplane reading and before bed, I stuck to books I could study but not try to rewrite.

But to turn an old phrase, you can take the writer out of the story, but you can’t take the story out of the writer. We spent our last day strolling through Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park, final resting place of the stars, shoehorned between Los Angeles skyscrapers. I dare you to look on Marilyn Monroe’s grave without a narrative beginning to form itself, vacation or no. No matter. There’s little that separates work and play in the life of a writer.