If you’re a writer, there is something that I think is almost always necessary to do what we do…solitude.
For each of my books, I’ve needed to be alone. This does not include a faithful canine companion. Just alone from other people. When I was a baby writer, my children were tiny—six and three—so my alone time happened when they napped, or at night. Bless them, they were the type of little ones who went to bed at 7:00. On the nights when McIrish worked at the firehouse, I’d jump on our big old clunky desktop in the bedroom we couldn’t afford to finish, and lose myself in story.
As the kids got older and my writing became more lucrative, McIrish and I decided to allot some more serious alone time for me. He built me an office in the basement, which I fondly called the Pit of Despair. Cement walls, that one little prison-like window…but hey. It had a door, and that door closed. As the kids grew older, I would go to the Cape for a night or two in March, which served two purposes—I’d open our little house up there, the house my parents bought when I was little, and have two whole days to write without human contact. We didn’t have wi-fi back then. It was writer heaven. As the kids grew older, the days at the Cape became longer…two nights. Three. A weekend with my plotting buddies.
When the kids were elderly and my writing responsibilities grew to become more than just stay at home and type, and I had to figure in things like book tours and speaking engagements, I started to go away in the winter. I probably have seasonal affective disorder, but I call it the winter blues. Our little house in the woods can feel claustrophobic, all those trees. My office isn’t well insulated, so I sit under blankets when I work there. Since I walk to my office, any kind of snow or ice makes it hazardous to someone as clumsy as I am.
So I rented an apartment a few years ago, first in Atlanta, then in La Jolla when a speaking engagement took me out there. I went back a couple years later, because La Jolla is so beautiful, and so warm.
This year, I’m away for the longest I’ve been. A month. Both kids live away now, Dearest a sophomore in college, the Princess at nursing school in Boston. Rather than try to go somewhere warm, which would require a flight and more effort for McIrish to come see me, I rented a house on Cape Cod, back to my roots. Our little house isn’t winterized enough for a month there, so I found a pretty little house on another dirt road. The ocean roars, and I wake up to the sun streaming in through the windows, and the sky…the sky is so beautiful. At night, the stars are bright enough for me to understand why we’ve always looked to them as proof of God, as our heroes immortalized.
Luther is curled up on his mat as I write this. McIrish will come visit me today. My plotting friends will pop in—my sister and Huntley already have. But mostly there’s just me, my story, my good dog, the ever-changing voice of the ocean, the bracing wind and the glorious, endless sky.