Tuesday, June 18, 2019

My Writer's Retreat...at the Car Dealership

I'm a writer. I like to write. I like to have a nice, quiet place to get away from it all so that I can write.

I'm a dad. I like being a dad. I like to spend time doing fun things with my kids.

Unfortunately, those two things aren't always compatible. It's difficult to write while being a dad. It's almost impossible to find a nice, quiet place to concentrate on my craft with four kids hanging around.

Some writers deal with this problem by going on a writer's retreat--someplace to get away from all the distractions that make it difficult to write. Usually, a writer will retreat to a resort or spa or somewhere quiet and comfortable. Unfortunately, as a father of four, and as a writer who hasn't made much (any) money writing, I can't really afford to go on a traditional writer's retreat.

And, as a father of four, I drive a mini-van. We've had our mini-van for nine years, and in that time we've put over 116,000 miles on it. When a vehicle gets that many miles on it, some preventative maintenance--belts and fluids and filters and such--needs to be done. 

What does this have to do with writing? Well, I took the mini-van in for maintenance, and I brought my laptop with me--I took my writer's retreat at the car dealership!

On the day of my appointment/retreat, I woke up early, showered, and left the house before any of the kids got out of bed. I arrived at the dealership when they opened at 7:00 AM, expecting four or five hours of writing time. I was a bit surprised to find they were going to keep the car all day--I had a full 10 hours for my writer's retreat!

I set myself up in the dealership's waiting room. It's a fairly large room with reasonably comfortable chairs, free wi-fi, complementary fountain drinks, and unlimited popcorn. Unfortunately, it also contains a large television. I picked a chair without a view of the screen, but with a nearby electrical outlet. Surprisingly, the television wasn't much of a distraction. Three hours of local news are especially easy to tune out when they repeat the same stories every twenty minutes. Also, it'd be difficult to find a television show more effortless to ignore than Live with Kelly and Whoever

The perfect getaway!
(That's my laptop in the corner chair.)
Of course, I wasn't alone in the waiting room. People came in and out all day, but most of them spent their time gazing at their personal screens, or gawking at Kelly Ripa. Only occasionally did someone interrupt the quiet by actually speaking, and then it was usually a short, one-sided conversation into their telephone.

I didn't spend all day in the waiting room. (Unlimited popcorn has its limits.) At lunchtime I wandered over to a nearby restaurant for a patty melt and some fries, and I stopped in at the gourmet cookie store for a gourmet cookie. It was good to stretch my legs, and I came back to my waiting room chair refreshed, recharged, and ready to write.

The writing was going quite nicely--until I ran into a distraction impossible to ignore: Judge Judy! From the moment she started talking, Judge Judy presided over the waiting room with an iron fist. As much as I wanted to turn a deaf ear, I couldn't help but listen as Judge Judy asked the plaintiff and defendant questions, then told them to shut up when they tried to answer her. I couldn't write with Judge Judy on the television. She was a much more annoying distraction than my kids--at least they are occasionally entertaining. (Judge Judy just makes me shake my head.)

I was able to find a chair outside of the waiting room, away from the pull of the television. It didn't have an outlet, so I had to hope my laptop's battery could outlast the diminutive, opinionated magistrate. (It did.)

It turned out to be a very productive day. I got more writing done in ten hours than I would have in a whole week at home with the kids. But, as great as it was, I wouldn't want to do it too often. (I'm a dad, and I love being around my kids.)

Still, overall it was a fantastic writer's retreat, and it didn't cost me anything! (Well, except for the hundreds of dollars I paid the dealership for the mini-van maintenance.) (And an earful of Judge Judy.)

No comments:

Post a Comment