Last week, my neighbor, aka Walking Friend, went off to a tropical vacation. I stayed home and fed her tropical fish.
My friend is organized. She left out pre-measured cups of fish food, a bag for mail and newspapers, and an invitation to me to eat the strawberries and pineapple in the fridge; to drink any and as much of their liquor as I’d like; and to “stay a little while and write, if you want to!”
Free fruit, unlimited booze, and a writing retreat, all in exchange for checking mail and feeding fish. Yippee!
I went home, packed a bag, and disappeared for a week. In my neighbor’s house, I locked the doors and ignored the telephone. I set up my laptop on the dining room table and didn’t move it. I subsisted on wine and strawberries and never turned on the TV. I wrote, wrote, and wrote some more, and when I got tired, I relaxed into the oversized chair near the fireplace, and let the bubbling of the fish tank lull me to sleep….
Well, not really.
The invitation didn’t mention sleepovers, and I didn’t want a middle-of-the-night confrontation that included, “I’m not squatting, officer, I was asked to take care of the fish so I’m providing 24 hour protection.”
Fantasy aside, what I actually did was carry my laptop across the street for a couple of hours each day. I self-retreated in a quiet, unoccupied house where there really was fruit in the fridge, the fish tank did provide bubbly background music, and the phone calls were not mine to answer.
I can write almost anywhere. I sit in coffee shops and the chatter fades away. Give me a corner in the airport and a layover, and I’ll use that time productively. Free writes in the public library? A bench at the playground? A picnic table at the park? A balcony at the beach? DIY weekend retreat, solo or with a friend? Done, done, done, and done. My big kahuna getaway is leaving behind my family, work, and responsibilities to spend 2 or 3 weeks at an artist colony every winter.
I write this blithely enough, but the trick of writing in any given space is learned behavior. I taught myself how to write anywhere because, from time to time, in my home office where everything I need to be productive and inspired is within reach, my inspiration–imagination, determination, muse, magical mystery writing guide–deserts me.
It’s not SAD. It’s not writers block. It’s home office fever.
I love being a writer. I don’t love sitting in the same chair, looking at the same view, twelve hours a day. In addition to the fear that long-term sitting will shave off years of my life—sitting is the new smoking, you know—the same spot, same space gets boring. Don’t misunderstand me—I acknowledge my good fortune in having a dedicated work space (and the tax break that comes with it). Nevertheless, from time to time the walls close in, and I need a new room with a new view.
There are all different kinds of fatigue—mental fatigue, physical fatigue, creative fatigue, compassion fatigue. For me, creative fatigue hits for different reasons, and one of those reasons is the Same Four Walls Syndrome. So I’ve learned to take it on the road, sometimes for a couple of hours, sometimes for a couple of weeks.
And a funny thing happened after four days blissfully writing across the street. On the fifth day, I noticed all the fruit was gone. When the phone rang, I listened to voice mail messages in case it was important or an emergency. And I began to tune out the fish tank. When the bubbles go from lovely and soothing, to white noise, to sounds to be tuned out, it’s time to move on. All good things, and all that.
I bought a bouquet and left it for my neighbor to show my appreciation. Now I’m back in my own home with my own food and phone calls. The break was good. I am content. No home office fever.
But if you have fish to feed, call me.
Do you ever suffer from creative fatigue? If so, what do you do about it?
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