The Next Year

I am tired and sad, and so I think I’ll write about what I want to happen in the next year.

First, I want to finish the academic work I’m doing.

Second, I want to create a life for myself in which I can do the things I love, spend time with the people I love. I have this image in my mind of going down to North Carolina, renting a house on the beach, asking my best writer friend to come stay with me so we can both write there. It’s always nicer to share something with someone, whether ice cream or an experience. And I specify my best writer friend because I can’t imagine anything better than sharing both the ocean and writing.

Imagine waking up, taking a long walk on the beach, collecting shells. I haven’t been to the ocean in a long time, but I still remember how the sand feels beneath my feet, how the water curls around my ankles. In North Carolina, the beaches are lined with old houses, faded from sun and salt, sitting behind the dunes. And there are pelicans drifting overhead. And the wind in the sea oats makes a particular sort of sound, a shushing that you can hear all night, together with the shush of the waves.

Imagine having breakfast and then getting to work, spending the morning writing. Lunch, and then talking about what was accomplished that morning, about how the novels are going. (These are to be novels, of course.) Reading sections aloud. Troubleshooting.

A nap in the afternoon, curled up in that warm air.

Dinner would be seafood of some sort, fish or crab. I still remember the crabs we ate when we went to the ocean, when I was a child. Directly off the brown paper spread on the table, using a mallet to break the shells. The simplest foods are always the best.

And then perhaps sitting on the beach, talking in the darkness. About all sorts of things, talk as rambling as one of the beach roads, as comfortable as an old quilt.  I still remember how moonlight looked on the waves, and the stars overhead.  So many stars!

And finally, sleeping. There is nothing like sleeping near the ocean, listening to the waves all night long. It’s like being rocked by the earth itself. I have always slept well, by the beach.

I have thought, from time to time, of doing something like this with a group of friends, of inviting a group of writer friends to come to the ocean with me and just write. But first perhaps with one person, whom I know and whose writing I know well. (And yes I’m thinking of someone specific, and yes you know who you are, and yes this is code for get working on that novel, because I want to read it!  And critique it.  By the ocean.)

Tonight I am tired and sad, and I want to rent a house on the beach in North Carolina, and I want to start working on a novel. For now, the fantasy of it will have to do, because there’s work to be done. But eventually, after my academic work is finished – then, it will be time for the real thing. (And I’ll probably get a sunburn on my nose. But that’s all right.)

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11 Responses to The Next Year

  1. Will says:

    Good lord, that sounds awesome. I might opt for mountains more than sea, but the principle is exactly the same (and, hey, I wouldn’t turn down the sea, either).

    I’ll have to remember this little exercise the next time I’m feeling tired and sad. It’s never occurred to me to just, you know, write what I actually want like that!

  2. Mountains are good too! I spent some time in the mountains of North Carolina last year, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Yes, I do that a lot, actually, just write down what I want when I’m in a place where I can’t have it, at least not in the near future. I think it helps a lot, helps keep me going sometimes. 🙂

  3. Jeff P says:

    My writing group does something similar, except it’s only for a day. My family owns a cottage on the ocean here in Maine, and we meet for a day and critique, sometimes do writing exercises. And you’re right—there’s nothing like falling asleep to the waves.

    Jeff P.

  4. Jeff, that sounds terrific! But I would definitely want more than a day, someplace like that . . .

  5. Why are all my comments suddenly in blue boxes? I think WordPress is doing something strange . . .

  6. Grey Walker says:

    At least it’s a pretty blue. 🙂

    I like this. Saying what you wish for. Speaking into the universe.

  7. Jeff P. says:

    1:02 AM??!! My God, woman, get some rest!!!

    Jeff P.

  8. Daily Alice says:

    What an alluring fantasy. I hope that it comes true for you, in every respect. After the backbreaking academic work you’ve described you certainly need such an idyllic retreat. And the scenario you describe allows for two things which are so often in conflict–work and pleasure. How often we forget that they can be one and the same, intertwined: that writing can be a joy, not drudgery (as it too often can be for me). I envy you the clarity of your vision, and your courage, as Grey Walker says, in “Saying what you want. Speaking into the universe.” Sometimes the universe answers.

  9. Thank you! I hope the universe answers. I’m certainly speaking to it very hard. 🙂

    Writing is usually a joy for me. (I’m sorry to hear it’s sometimes a drudgery for you, but I certainly understand why it would be! And sometimes when I’m going over a manuscript for the whateverth time, and something’s just not working, it can be a drudgery for me too. But the initial writing is usually a joy.) Except academic writing, which can be agonizing. But I’m working on that as hard as I can, and it will be done soon. That’s what I keep telling myself, as I’m thinking about that beach house, and writing what I want to, and the company of friends. Soon . . .

    Jeff, I know, but I have a deadline today, and I have a deadline on the 15th, and I’m going to have to work like mad for the next month. It will get better (soon, as I said above). Things will actually be much better even after March, and after April I should be great (and getting some sleep, only two month away!). Fingers crossed . . .

  10. Daily Alice says:

    Rewriting is to me where the real pleasure comes in. The first draft can be agonizing, though also, occasionally, a real pleasure, where you get to the place where you seem to be not so much writing as channeling something from beyond you.

  11. Theodora Goss says:

    That’s interesting, I think it’s mostly the opposite for me. The first draft is usually a pleasure, where I do seem to be channeling something from beyond me. (I write the first draft by hand, and I wonder if that has anything to do with it? The writing just flows.) And then the second draft is often the one where I’m thinking in terms of the whole, in terms of how the different elements fit into that whole. It’s a more analytical process, which makes it harder. When I’m writing non-fiction, I write on the computer rather than by hand, and that’s a more analytical process and less of a pure pleasure. Today, I’m working on my Folkroots column (I know, it’s late, I asked for an extension), and that’s a pleasure because it’s about fairies, but also a lot of analysis, that particular part of my brain.

    So I suppose for me the pleasure has in part to do with which part of my brain is engaged?

    (And what’s up with WordPress? I can’t log into my own site today, and all the WordPress sites are slow and showing error messages. Get on it, WordPress crew! I bet those blue boxes around site author comments messed everything up . . .)

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