From the mixed files

Summary

Advice from a residence in Playa, Summer Lake.

A few years ago I got a Beach Residence, Summer Lake. Cue the universe. First, in the form of wild fire
which postponed my long-awaited Residency for a year. Then Covid, which is still postponing almost everything. But this month, the stars aligned and I was able to pack some food. and my laptop for a much needed offline retreat.

Armed with some wonderful tips from Therese at Writer Unboxed (if you’re a writer and not familiar with this blog, be sure to check it out!),
by Jen Louden The Women’s Retreat Bookand my N95 masks, I headed to the Great Oregon Basin to do some much-needed curation, of my manuscript sure, but
also from my soul.

I was not disappointed.

Playa is a haven on Summer Lake, a desert lake in Lake County, Oregon. The Great Basin landscape is a unique mix of ponds, dry lake bed, and wetlands.

it’s magic

It was the perfect place to rest, repair and rejuvenate my writer self.

I spent my mornings watching the sun rise, journaling, and writing.

I took long walks. Sometimes I would take notes on my novel using the voice recording app on my phone. Sometimes he just walked.

I sat down. (Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I sat down and saw the world. It was wonderful.)

I read.

I spent a not insignificant amount of time lying on my back on a bench by the pond, looking through the trees and feeling like a child.

I wrote.

I did self-hypnosis.

I watched a falcon hunt, a woodpecker peck, and a flock of goldfinches flap their wings.

I spent my evenings watching the sunset, journaling, and writing.

I heard the coyotes sing.

I looked at the stars.

I felt my writer self expand. Which is magic in itself.

I really can’t articulate the value of my experience. 5 days dedicated exclusively to your artistic self is a luxury that not many of us can afford, even in the best of times.
I’m not sure when I’ll be able to do that time again, let alone spend it in such a magical place.

But if you have the opportunity to spend some time alone, dedicated to writing, I have some advice to offer you, one for each day of my residency:

1. Be generous with yourself. If you feel like writing, of course write. But if your soul is crying out for you to sit, to roam, to play, to rest, please allow yourself to do those things. They all fill the writer well. They all count.

two. Bring music. I don’t listen to music at home when I write. But, I brought some with me, just in case. She was so happy that she did. I played music throughout the day: when I was writing, when I needed a break to dance, when I was doing some yoga stretches. I was amazed at how much simple joy it brought.

3. Bring something good to read. I brought two craft books and my Kindle. I borrowed a middle grade novel, some poetry, and a collection of short stories from the library’s e-book library before I left. Poetry was great to start and end my day. The middle grade provided a nice afternoon of reading on the terrace and a great deal of inspiration. I never touched the short story collection (sorry Hilary Mantel. I know it’s wonderful and I’ll read it. RIP).

Four. Bring some art supplies. I am not an artist in any way. But I threw in some old watercolors and some new pens before I left just in case. I was glad to have them. I doodled and created some ridiculously terrible and totally hilarious watercolors multiple times over the 5 days. It was surprisingly freeing to allow myself to be bad at something and have fun doing it.

5. Bring food, but don’t get too precious about it. (Unless food is really your thing. Then you.) I looked at some retirement tips before I left and a lot of people mentioned food. Prepare food. I kept it simple because I didn’t have time to prepare something wonderful. I am happy to have done it. It turned out that I didn’t much care what I ate. I ate toast and fruit most mornings, crackers and cheese, raw vegetables and salami for lunch most days, and fruit and bread for dinner most nights. The soup and sandwiches filled in the gaps on other days very well. I had some cakes (nothing special) and some cookies as treats which were nice when I wanted them, and a little bottle of Prosecco to thank for the experience. One thing I wish I had brought was better coffee. That is all.

Now that I’m home and back in the normal world of laundry, shopping lists, and empty cat bowls, I’m eager to weave the learning and magic I gleaned from this residency into my daily life as a writer. I left the Playa with a plan for my current work in progress and for myself. I’m excited to start doing it.

Thank you so much to everyone at Playa who made this possible, with an additional thank you to Carrie and Kris for being so kind, wonderful, and accommodating <3

patrick bailey
Patricia Bailey is the author of the middle grade historical novel The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan. She blogs here and on her website www.patriciabaileyauthor.com.

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