Travelled? Yes, I wrote the book on the get-away-and-focus plan. Some works can be done in little pieces, like quilt squares, and then stitched together. The book was more like a grand knitting project, it had to be done all at once. I needed big chunks of time to think a complex thought through to its conclusion.
To accomplish this I spent at least one weekend a month away from home on a series of writing retreats. I’d scour the web for a place to stay within a short driving radius. It had to be quiet, preferably a cabin, with places where I could walk. I stayed at Lake Cushman, Silver Lake, Lake Oswego. I spent one long weekend on Guemes Island and several others on Hood Canal. For a number of years I spent Christmas break at Long Beach in Washington state. It’s a four hour drive from my house to the Long Beach peninsula along highways, then state roads, then local roads. In the winter the alder trunks stand bare against green cedar, red twig dogwood and tan grasses line the roads, the water reflects the gray mist in the sky. I’d pop a CD of troubador music in the player and roll along the road. Some years were wilder than others, sometimes trees blocked the roads, sometimes there was snow.
Once installed in the cabin I had a regular routine. I woke up and wrote. I’d eat lunch and then take a walk, along the beach, in a neighboring park, down the road where I was staying. Back at the cabin I would write what I had been thinking on the walk. I’d take a nap. Then dinner, in the cabin or out at a neighborhood joint, and more writing. I’d call or Skype Ted and catch up on what we’d been doing. Then I’d write until I was too tired to sit up. Sleep, repeat.
I wasn’t always working on the book during writing retreats. I worked on “Feminist Thelema” or Women’s Voices in Magic too. I’d always come back to the main work though. After eight or so years of this I had a pretty substantial collection of draft text.
Finally I got serious about finishing the project. I booked two week-long stays at the Whidbey Island Writers Refuge. This is a cozy cabin tucked away in the woods that was purpose-built for writing retreats. I spent one summer week there drafting half the book and a winter week drafting the second half. The seasons and the cabin made their way into the book.
I threw a book release party at the Esoteric Book Conference in 2011. The week after the conference my entire family took a month-long trip around the country by train. It was a celebration of accomplishment and a total immersion into a luxuriously long trip.
Since we came back from that trip I haven’t done monthly writing retreats. There are a lot of reasons. I am committed to conservation of resources and try to drive as little as possible. As I get older travel is not quite as easy as it used to be for me and I find that I miss my own sheets and my kitchen gear. Also, when we came back from our month on the train we all got new pets, and now I have three beautiful kitties; they are always around me, sleeping nearby or on me, nuzzling me and purring. When I have to stay away from home I miss them terribly. It may be that my writing vagabond days are over.
I loved the writing retreat period of my life. I saw a lot of the northwest that way. The places wound themselves into the text. When I read the words I can see the waves on the winter beach, the birds circling over the water, long stretches of highway through trees. The north woods by the sea offer quiet immersion in secluded places. I don’t think I could have written a book of that scope anywhere else.