Anne Laughlin
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    What a month away can do . . .

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    This photo is from the book launch for Sometimes Quickly. I've just sent my next book off to find a publisher, so I hope to be reading from it sometime in the next year. Fingers crossed!

    I have been back from my month long residency for over two weeks now, and still haven't found the time or energy to write about my experience there. My last blog entry was written the day after I arrived, and the feeling of deep satisfaction that I felt then only increased as the month of October rolled on. Let's see if I can describe it briefly, without too much reverence.

    A month can seem like an incredibly short or long time, depending on a host of variables. My month at the Mary Anderson Center for the Arts felt very much what I imagine a month is in real time - I was aware of nearly every moment, I was able to plan my day and then live it without distraction, I was never pulled away from what I intended to do, unless I simply changed my mind about doing it. The four weeks was a substantial amount of time, but only in the most comforting of ways. The time was not racing by me, throwing my into a state of fear that it was all going to be gone in a flash. Nor did it drag on ad infinitum, throwing me into another type of fear - fear of boredom, fear of being too much with myself, fear of not accomplishing as much as I should.

    My intention was to finish writing the first draft of my novel in the first two weeks of my stay and to edit during the final two week, and strangely, that's exactly what I did. The wonderful brick house that I lived in was occupied by only one other writer and the resident manager, it was quiet, my window had a gorgeous view, and the weather was sublime. Everyday I woke up, drank coffee while I looked over the pages from the day before, ate breakfast, wrote, walked to the friary for lunch, wrote, hiked the trails in the woods. Then I'd start editing what I'd already written that day. Dinner at the friary, and then more editing followed by a TV show I'd downloaded onto my iPod during the day. The internet connection was so slow that it took all day to download an hour long show.

    On Monday nights I walked a few steps out the front door to one of the Friary buildings where yoga was held each week at 6:30. On Sunday afternoons I'd drive twenty minutes into Louisville and go to the big Barnes and Noble they have there, and that was my outing for the week. It was the simplest life I'd led since I was too young to complicate my life - let's call that five years old. I worked like crazy and felt completely energized by it. I left the retreat with the book completed, amazed that I'd accomplished what I set out to do. But even if I hadn't finished the book I accomplished something in that month I think I needed to accomplish. I proved to myself that at long last I am comfortable enough in my own skin to absolutely enjoy my own company, to know what I did and didn't want to do, and to just accept every part of me as being the way it needs to be, at least for now. I wish everyone had the luxury to do what I did.

    The only problem, really, is that while a month away seems like a reasonable amount of time when you're the person away, the people left behind have a different perspective. It happened that it was a particularly bad month for my partner, with the financial crisis exploding early in the month and her father falling ill toward the middle of the month. I guess it's too much to expect that everything will go exactly the way I want it to. It certainly wasn't for my partner that month.

    The other thing that was a little shocking is that a week after returning from MACA, I got an e-mail from them saying they'd shut down the whole program! I got in and out in the nick of time. I'm not sure why they closed, but it's probably the same reason most arts programs don't make it - lack of funds. It's really too bad, because I don't think I really adequately described how conducive that was to my writing.

    Now I've edited the book as much as I can see to do and sent it off to my first choice in publishers. The waiting now begins, and it can be agonizing for a double Aries like me. The only answer is to start the next project.

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