Writing Isn’t Just About Writing.

bedroom decor in the cottage
bedroom decor in the cottage

I have been waiting for this time for so very long! Like, YEARS.

I applied for a few writing residencies last year and when I didn’t get any of them, I decided to put together one of my own. Why wait for someone else to grant me the time and place to write? I decided that April would be my month of Getting Back Into It and Making Some Headway into Finishing a Damn Book.

Part one of my “sabbatical” involved taking a leave of absence from my physical therapy job. I hung up my name badge last week and won’t be picking it up again until May. That was kind of a big deal. I’d worked a LOT in December and January in preparation for this time. I will miss seeing some of my patients, but I have found that trying to combine many kinds of work is very challenging. So I’m doing the total-immersion approach for a month and see how that goes.

goodbye until May!
goodbye until May!

I flew out to New York. First part of the sabbatical involved meeting up with my BFF on her birthday, and celebrating with a trip to Ithaca, where we met each other in a writing workshop o so many years/decades (!!) ago. It was a deep immersion in nostalgia, back where our friendship and mutual writing support began.

We rented a not-so-little YURT (2 bedrooms! 2 levels!) that was adorable and cozy. We spent some hours writing, and also Thinking About Writing via this new-to-us software called Scrivener, which is an amazing organizational tool for bookwriters.

IMG_1124 IMG_1140



We also spent some time hiking around Ithaca’s beautiful falls, which I will never grow tired of.

Lucifer Falls, Treman Park, Ithaca
Lucifer Falls, Treman Park, Ithaca

Because, the thing is, if you’re going to spend hours hunched over or under a laptop (as is in my case, since I do a lot of writing lying on my back), you GOTTA get out and move the body and get some air too.

After the blissful weekend, we drove back down to Manhattan and checked out this excellent play (about transracial adoption, a topic near and dear to both of us). I found it very inspiring and provocative.

The Call, by Tonya Barfield

Yesterday, I left the city to come out to the very tippy-tip tip of Long Island, to the little town of Montauk. Most of it is closed down because it is still winter here. But it is quite beautiful, and I lucked upon an adorable, very retro little place.

IMG_1224 IMG_1217 IMG_1223It’s wonderful. But now that I am here, all on my own for several days (until another writer friend joins me), I’m finding that I’m not just pounding out dozens of pages. In fact, quite the contrary. What I’ve needed in the past several years has not been page-producing (I’ve actually done a bit of that) but time and space in which to THINK. Which is why Scrivener is such a gift at this time. I’ve had it on my computer for years, but it never made any sense to me until now. But now! YES.

I am finding that “writing time” also includes:

  • reading (other books for inspiration/structure/plot)
  • reading (books, mostly by friends of mine, I have been putting OFF reading until I have TIME)
  • Scrivening (which is awesome but also makes my brain feel like it’s doing quantum physics)
  • napping and/or sleeping late
  • getting outside and moving around (good thing for me, I am 1.2 miles from Town, and I do not have a car!)
  • dealing with various and sundry Details of my Life Back Home
  • nutrition (I LOOOOOOVE not having to prepare meals! Thus far I have been subsisting on coffee, Cutie oranges, trail mix and cheese)
  • blogging!
  • ART! Yeah I’m pulling out all the creative stops. I’m going to be taking an online art journal class starting on Sunday and I bought some colored pencils and watercolors to jog that part alive as well…

Because all of these things involve different parts of the brain (and body). Well, that was today, anyway. Tomorrow I might blast out a ton of pages. But one of the biggest gifts about having time like this is about having the flexibility to do all the different things that will help one’s writing. And not just writing.

8 thoughts on “Writing Isn’t Just About Writing.

  1. I am so glad you are doing this, Susan. I wish you were MY physical therapist, but knowing that you are giving yourself time to write/think about writing is doing me the world of good!

  2. Brava to you for the self-care step that all of us, as writers and artists, need to do but often deny ourselves. i look forward to all that you choose to share!

  3. Good luck, Susan. I am making Tuesdays my “electronic shabbat,” not answering the phone or email and freeing it up for writing. I am also getting up very early, 5:30 am, sometimes sooner, to write before the day begins. xoxo Katy Butler

  4. Susan, this sounds wonderful! I hope you’ll write something at the end of your sabbatical for Literary Mama’s After Page One series. I think it’d be perfect! Just send it my way🙂

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