Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Crooked Truth

View from my room at When Words Count

Jamie’s Crooked Truth: Tossing the To Do List 

My two sons often steal my phone to take photos, so what I discover on it is always a surprise. I might find goofy faces, 26 close-ups of the dog’s nose, or an artistic series of a Yoda Lego minifig scaling our kitchen cupboard.

But recently, I’d stumbled upon something jarring--a video they’d taken of me. I’m hunched over my laptop, typing, oblivious that I’m being filmed. “WE GOTTA GO!” I yell, and become a whirling dervish of multi-tasking--snapping shut my laptop, putting dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, turning off a dripping faucet in the bathroom, racing toward the front door, and then running back into the kitchen for the purse I’d forgotten.

My youngest narrates the action: “She’s craaaaaazy.”


Life can get pretty crazy around here.

So a weekend at the When Words Count writing retreat was a welcome break from, well, everything. No phone, no TV, no distractions. Just a serene Vermont setting, delicious food, good company, wine by the fire at night, and long stretches of time to write. Heaven.

Dinner is served! Yum. Cross "cooking" off your to do list.
A fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookie for dessert. See? Heaven.

When I arrived, I decided to relax by going for a stroll along a dirt road. But I found myself speed-walking like I was late for an important meeting. Craaaaaazy. I was still in real-life mode, my mind buzzing with the unchecked boxes of my to-do list. It took a little while to settle into the idea that the only item on my list now was writing.

To be able to focus 100% on writing for three days is a luxury I’d never experienced. I thought I’d get burned out by the second day, but instead I wrote straight through lunch, lost in the imaginary world on paper.

I also didn’t give myself parameters as to what I should be writing. I came to Vermont with a kernel of an idea for a novel, and left with an outline, list of character descriptions, and a first chapter.

One of the many places to write -- a desk in my room, The Flannery O'Connor Room

Flannery's glasses
On the last day, I walked slowly along the same dirt road. The green mountains looked glorious. I couldn’t hear cars. Just birds. I tried to pinpoint how I felt and the word that immediately came to mind was “whole.” In one place, with one focus, and not pulled in a hundred different directions.

I vowed to instill some of the retreat experience into my everyday life. To live slower, fully present in each moment. Aaand . . . that was wishful thinking. The real world IS crazy. So for now, I turn off my phone and write in a quiet nook of the library. You get peace where you can find it.

Where do you find peace to do what you love?


  1. I love this post! I'm ashamed to admit it, but I sometimes am guilty of "quickly" finishing a task at the computer, only to get sucked into another "computer thing." During these times, my 3 year old will often ask me to play, or come see his new "trick," or watch his favorite show on the couch with him. Most of the time, I shut down my laptop and go to him. But sometimes, I just need "one more minute." So I tell him, "I know, mommy's boring." To which he says, "You're not boring, you're beautiful!" (Truth!) You know what happens then? My laptop is off duty...until that precious boy is tucked into bed for the night.

  2. ooh, thanks for sharing this! I have been thinking that I need a retreat or something to get some writing done...

  3. You're welcome, Grace! Hope you enjoy it! I recommend going in the Spring or Fall. It's a gorgeous place.

  4. Thank you, jdspero! I know exactly what you mean. I freelanced when the boys weren't of school age yet, and striking the right balance between work and home was difficult. Thankfully, things became a lot easier once they went to school. Now work ends at 3. Love your son's reply. What a sweet little guy!