Sobbing in a hotel room at 5 a.m.
I have six kids, which means our life is a wee bit hectic. During hockey season, with four sons skating and a husband in the military, silence is more than golden…it’s unheard of. Usually, I can roll with the noise, and I write during the day while the kids are at school. But when deadlines linger, I start to go a little crazy. My husband’s been around long enough to see the signs. My eyes narrow. My headphones are on. The next kid that walks into my office had better be in a life-or-death situation. Eventually, I snap.
Now, I love working in my yoga pants as much as the next writer, but every once in a while I wish I had an office to go to. A place where I could say, “I’m sorry, but that will have to wait. I’m at work.” Working from home, the lines are blurred easily. Tasks get interrupted, kids get sick, husbands come home for lunch. It’s life, but each and every time someone walks into my little home office, I’m yanked out of my story, and have to double down to get back into it. That doesn’t mean I haven’t written books on an ironing board in a closet, because I have. I’m adaptable. But man, the interruptions get me cranky.
That’s exactly what happened when I was at deadline with another 30K words to write in The Last Letter.
“Pack up, you’re headed to a hotel,” my husband told me with a kiss on my forehead.
“We can’t afford that!” I responded, though silently wondering if we actually could.
“We can’t afford for you to blow a deadline, either, and you’re not getting anything done around here. Go. You have three nights.”
Man, he knows me. Sending me away for a night pretty much gives me the same word count as if I’d stayed up at our own house. Give me two nights, and I’m tripling that word count the next day. Give me a third? I’ll give you a book. Ok, not really, but kind of.
Of course, I pack like I’m never coming home again. Comfy pants, sweatshirts, slippers, the chill pad for my laptop, my Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, my lap desk…Good God, I basically throw my entire office into a carry-on. Then I kiss my husband goodbye, tell my kids I love them, and basically run out the door like the offer is going to be rescinded at any moment.
I follow the same procedure after every check-in. I rearrange the furniture like a mad woman, making sure the desk faces the window…even though I close the blinds. Move whatever armchair I have so I can prop my feet up, and set up the desk with minimal distractions. I shower…man I wish I had a reason for this, but it always makes me feel like I wash off home and slip into my writer-brain, I guess..
Then I write in 50-minute sprints. Fifty minutes where the internet is off, I don’t answer my phone, and I exist only in the manuscript. Then I get ten minutes to do whatever until it all starts again. I repeat until my eyes are too heavy to keep going, and then I sleep. No alarms. No appointments. I get up when my body is ready, and I start immediately. Holy cow, that next day is amazing for word count. With minimal interruptions, I lose myself in the book, and the chapters flow.
There’s something to be said for a solitary space where a writer can simply…write.
Now, there are drawbacks to hotel writing. If you don’t want to brave the outside world, you’re stuck eating whatever you brought or living off room service. You also can’t guarantee what’s going on outside of your room. Seriously, last year I checked in during a comic book convention. Distracting? Yes, but the people-watching was fantastic! The last drawback? While finishing The Last Letter, I sobbed so hard for so many hours that I was pretty darn sure my neighbors thought I needed a good sinus clean-out or a psychiatrist. True story.
I came home that third morning having written close to 35K words, and I’d finished the book around five a.m.. Then I slept.
Moral of the story? If you’re having trouble staying in the seat, change the venue. Move the seat. Find what works for you. Just maybe keep the crying to a minimum when in public.