|The sun was in my eyes and the scruff was getting unruly,
but here is a picture from day 2 of the trip home.
The train vacation/writer’s retreat has been a huge hit. While I enjoyed myself at the destinations I hit (and was wistful to leave), I honestly could have used a little more train.
Imagine the cowbell skit...but with trains.
"I gotta be honest guys. I coulda used a little more train."
"Chris, you're gonna want that train."
"I gotta have more train, baby!"
I got so much done when was on the train that it kind of felt like the old days before kids and sixteen jobs. The before time.
I’m now scheming all the ways to make Amtrak points so that I can basically take ubercheap visits to everywhere. I probably know a couch I can crash on in most cities I'd go, and if not, I've never been one who needs more than a Motel 6 or Econo-lodge. I can use an Amtrak credit card to pay for everything instead of cash. (Of course, I can’t afford to carry debt, so I’ll have to pay the balance off every month as soon as it's due.) I’m even considering taking all those market research quizzes. (Why no. I don’t particularly care about the price point of yachts. Thanks for the extra half a mile worth of credit. I'm 1/10000 the way to Disneyworld!) I kinda sorta quit the summer school job that paid for this year's vacation, so I'll have to get creative and save up if I want to do more train trips. And I want to do more train trips!
"I got a fever! And the only prescription....is more TRAIN!"
I'm pretty stoked about the work that got done and where WAW is positioned for the next month or so because of it. I got a lot of writing done, including the next week of posts and an extra filler post that is actually kind of good that I can kind of get up some day when everything falls apart. You can look forward to some really solid posts in the near future. Plus I will finally be able to slap up some early access stuff early for my ten dollar Patrons. If I can keep my hands off of any tempting double books (and I am doing JUUUUUUUUST well enough that I probably can), I can possibly even start in on some of the really long-forgotten sequels like blogging advice, my Skyrim post (which requires advancing in the game and have you ever tried having three jobs a toddler and playing a Bethesda game?), and the conclusion to some fiction.
Let me also tell you what I learned, because it just wouldn't be a personal update if I didn't try to shoehorn in a lesson about writing SOMEwhere. This isn't anything I haven’t “learned” a hundred times, but it’s worth saying again and again, especially to any writers who think that anything other than solid, sustained effort (things like a writer's retreat) is going to be the magic formula.
I got a lot of work done. Maybe twice what I normally do on a pretty good day. And I was on that train for six full days (non-contiguous), so you can imagine. I wrote emails, finished overdue letters to (now ex) employers, and knocked out a bunch of articles. I even got some work done on my manuscript. But here's the thing....that's only about thirty to forty pages of work. (I don't write that fast, but even if I did, I probably wouldn't have more than doubled my regular output.) I didn't finish my novel. I didn't do months and months worth of work. I still had to eat and go to the bathroom and stretch and get off the train at the longer stops to get SOME exercise. I still had to sleep. And I could still be distracted by the phone and FB every time we went through some farm or village with a drizzle of cellular signal. Also, to be honest, I wish I had spent more time reading because that's important to a writer too, and I sort of just focused on writing. And not to put to cliché a point on it, but if I hadn't cultivated the skills to focus, I could have been a lot more distractible.
It was lovely and I want to do more of it, but short of locking oneself away forever, any retreat like that is just going to be a few days of good output. It's not going to be all your hopes and dreams come true in one long weekend.
If you want to go on lockdown at a hotel or do a retreat or take a train, that's pretty normal for a writer––especially those writers who have a little bit of money to cover such expenses, but none of that is going to be a silver bullet, and you're not "missing out" if you can't afford to do it. The thing that will get the shit written––ALWAYS AND FOREVER––is going to be that inexorable, dogged determination of output (preferably daily or as close as you can muster) that gets pages slogged out week after week and month after month. No flash in the pan retreat will do that for you.