Settling in Salida, Colorado – My Writer’s Retreat Begins

We arrived in Salida yesterday. This morning, after finally getting some sleep, we both felt like we had been hit by a train. I’d forgotten how wonderful it is to be old, fat and at a high altitude all at the same time. Whew!

But, catching glimpses of the snow capped mountains and being surrounded bythis spring-time majesty … well it makes labored breathing and even breathlessness completely worthwhile. It’s simply stunning here.

I hope this will provide the environment I need to enjoy a productive writing retreat. It couldn’t have come at a better time, immediately following both the writers conference and the trip to Asheville (an emersion in history tour). All the recent events have served to make me feel quite inspired.

I feel a bit of stress, a feeling that I needed to stay in Kentucky and get some things sorted. Everywhere I look right now, there are things that are clamoring for my attention. So, maybe coming out here to downshift my business to a couple days a week, tune up my writing to one full day and 2-3 hours the other six days, walking in the wide open spaces, doing some soul searching, eating healthy and light, exercising my body and clearing my mind, coming to some conclusions… maybe this is exactly what I need. I think it is.

Right now, I’m turning down new clients every week. It’s odd. It seems wrong somehow — even though I’d tell my own clients to avoid taking on too much. But for me, it seems scary. What if I suddenly lose my client base? If I’m not working overtime every day, I may not be working at all. THESE are the thoughts that cross my mind… even now. Even after financial success and professional longevity. Even now, I’m worried some days that if I strive to improve my current career — one I truly enjoy — then I’ll release the bird in the hand and never capture that one in the bush. Why is that?

Our family will be fine with less money — unless we do move to Lexington — then all bets are off. The living expenses are so much higher there. But if we stay in the country, we are going to be banking much of our income this year. Imagine that! So, if I’m EVER going to be brave enough to back off from the projects that keep me busy day and night… if I DARE to make room in my life to begin writing for a living… now is the time.

Sure, I “write for a living” every day. I have for years. But it’s a different TYPE of writing that I seek now, a different, more challenging way to make a career. Right now, much of my income is derived from my knowledge of the Internet, of marketing — traditional marketing and Internet marketing — of how to make web content that’s effective for the search engines. I spend much of my time advising small business owners on how to focus their resources, their natural interests and their skills and experience to succeed. Writing is always a part of it, it’s always there… articles, columns, blogs, web copy, ghost writing for clients, newsletters and brochures… it’s all writing… but it’s not fiction. It’s creative non-fiction, technical writing, ad copy, web content, etc — which is enjoyable. I love taking all my experiences and all my own skills and knowledge and distilling that into a consulting product that is custom made for each and every individual client. It’s a rush. It’s productive, proactive and it is appreciated. There are lots of “atta-boys” and brownie points in my business. It’s great for my ego and excellent for my “word of mouth” advertising.

How well will I fare if I taper this type of writing and focus my energies on a type that will, undoubtedly, result in a slew of “no thank you” rejection letters from potential publishers? Dare I self publish? After all, that’s a viable option these days — and I have the marketing background to be able to do a better job than most authors without a marketing history. Or will I only succeed in my own eyes if I get published in the “old fashioned” way? Making money isn’t success to me. Creating a name for myself isn’t it what I’m seeking either. I know I’d love to see one of my books in the local bookstore…

But I wonder how long it would be before I felt like “I’ve been there and done that now… time to move on.” And, at the same time, I wonder if I’ve been “selling out” by using my writing to make a living on the Internet when I SHOULD be doing something else with my writing. Of course, maybe I’ll never make it as a writer in the traditional “novelist” sense. And, most writers that do what I do, and work hard at it, make more money and enjoy more professional success — in the traditional sense — that the majority of novelists ever will. Sure there are some of the “big names” who make astronomical amounts of cash, are “household” names and do writing ONLY. But they are the exception, rather than the rule, of writers.

And I think about that.

And I wonder if I’d want that type of life. I think I wouldn’t. I think I like living my quiet life far too much.

And then I look around this fifth-wheel. And, I see that all the needed basics are here — and are mobile! There’s a tiny kitchen, where home-made organic split-pea and onion soup is simmering, a tea-pot brimming with steaming brown liquid, a small spice rack, a stove, fridge and double-bowl sink. There is a large basket brimming with fresh fruit. There is a bit of cabinet space for preparation and ample storage (considering the overall size). Pops has created an office with a full sized computer, a workstation desk and an overstuffed chair. There is a bookshelf. There is a couch that makes into my own bed. The computer screen is large enough to do double-duty as an entertainment center in the small living area for DVD watching. There’s a small eating area, surrounded on three sides with open windows to breathe in the amazing view. The tiny bathroom offers all the basics and I enjoyed a fairly lengthy hot shower in there this morning. The bedroom has a queen sized bed with storage on both sides, underneath and there is a good sized closet.

And I just love it here. I like the mobility of it. I like the “get away from it all” feel that it has — without sacrificing anything essential. Here at the campground, there is a wi-fi connection that seems to be fairly good — at least so far. My own “work/writing station” is on a roll around table. It’s large enough to have my ipod sound system on the left, above
my mouse, and the large hard drive to the right of my machine. My cup of tea and a bowl of fresh pineapple and organic cottage cheese rest here too. It’s hard to complain about the accommodations! And the view… have I mentioned the VIEW?!?!!?

So I wonder…

Should I make a career shift now, dive into a fiction/creative writing path? I’d miss my contact with clients. I really enjoy these folks. The only thing that really frustrates me about my current job, my current career — is that I never get everything done that I want to do. I never get caught up. Maybe I take on too many projects, and maybe I could fix that by cutting back on clients and projects. But, I don’t think so. Even when I was light on client projects some time back, I’d dive into other projects of my own. WickedTreo was one of those projects.

Getting my WickedBlog up was another such project. And now, I’m hoping to launch WickedMobility sometime this year. But, this second, I have so many other decisions to make before I know which way to walk.

Wayne has said that if we are moving, he will have his job secured and will find us a place to live by July 1st. Until then, I’m trying to learn a bit of patience. Patience is a virtue, but it’s not one of mine! So I’m trying to ignore the “where I’ll be this time next year” aspect of my current life. I’m ignoring the limbo there. I’m, instead, trying to look a bit deeper into what I need to nurture my own soul. I am sure I’ll be happy either way — with a move to the city (I can see the advantages therein) or remaining in the country (I already know and love those advantages).

I have a wonderful husband who didn’t pitch a hissy when I wanted to schedule a one-month writing excursion to Colorado, he didn’t fuss when I left for Asheville, or when — just days before — I was gone for four days to a writers conference. He’s amazingly supportive and understanding — and helps me juggle the kids and the demands on our time. I’m truly blessed there. I have a great family — immediate and extended. I have excellent friends. Wonderful peers and professional contacts. Life is good. And all I want now is to be able to focus myself enough to enjoy it more. At 40, things are moving pretty fast now. Time whizzes by. I want to slow it down a bit. I’m tired of burning the candle at
both ends. I’m ready to enjoy what I’ve worked so hard to find.

Now, the question about art and activism become a more important one. Educational fiascos in the US (especially in KY), national and state debt loads, the stripping of individual rights and privacy concerns, the rising cost of healthcare and the causes of poor health (organic concerns, additives, pesticides, bio-engineered foods, etc) — these are all issues that speak to me. I know I should be doing something somewhere. And for the last few years, I’ve been most concerned with feeding my kids. Now, as the business flourishes, as I have spousal support, as I get a bit older and (hopefully) a bit wiser, it becomes imperative that I give back on a larger scale. And yet, I want to relax and enjoy life sometimes.

How in the world does one juggle all these things without remaining exhausted and rushed day in and day out?

I don’t want to live thorough another month without making some decisions and some steps in the appropriate direction. So, I’m on retreat. Writing helps me to purge, to focus, to define. Writing without the demands of my daily grind should help to produce more creative and inspired work than I can manage at home and in the home office.

So, I begin this new journey. My own “May-Day” to myself. A call for action, for decisions, and for coming to a peaceful, productive place in my life. And, I hope everyone else is also blessed with an enjoyable and self-aware month.