You Believe In The Cabin In The Woods

You have a great idea for a book and you know it’s going to be fan-tastic when you can find the time to write it, but that time never comes. Life, after all, is so full of emergencies. The dog gets sick, the stock market crashes, your best friend moves away, and just when it seems like things will settle down enough for you to start writing, your boyfriend gets sick, you crash the car into a fire hydrant, your dentist retires. You solve the new crop of problems, then head to Staples to buy a new notebook, some awesome gel pens, and some file folders to keep all the notes for your book straight – but on the way home your boss calls to say that you lost your biggest account, your mom calls to say that your grandma is ill and when you get home, you see that the big branch on the sycamore tree in the front yard has fallen on the neighbor’s fence. 

You start to dream about a quiet cabin in the woods where no one will disturb you while you set your story down on paper. You start looking at those neat grant programs that give writers their own cab-ins and a fat stipend, and lunch in a basket on the doorstep every day. That’s what you need! You will apply for that program! You ap-ply, but you don’t get accepted. So you start looking for a time when you can go to one of those retreats in Italy or Mexico where you hang out with other writers, hammer out your book, and in the afternoons eat figs or mangos from the trees that hang over the pool. But you need $6,000 and a month off from work, and that never happens. It goes on like this for months on end, which turn into years on end, until your great idea dissolves into something as difficult to pin down as a dream.


For most of us, writing doesn't happen in a quiet cabin in the woods. There is no cabin, there are no woods. There is just the noise and the chaos and the pressure of life. If you are waiting for the mythical cabin, see the waiting for what it is -- a form of procrastination. Then stop doing it. Acknowledge that life is busy and unpredictable and then find a way to make your writing a part of that busy, unpredict-able life. Start by telling everyone you live with what you are doing so that they take it seriously, too -- which is to say that they will give you space and time and support. Now write. No matter what else hap-pens, just write.

“The hardest part of artmaking is living your life in such a way that your work gets done, over and over – and that means, among other things, find-ing a host of practices that are just plain useful. A piece of art is the surface expression of a life lived within productive  patterns.” 
― David Bayles, Art & Fear: Observations on the  Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking