The Myth of Writing in a Cabin in the Woods

Jonny Depp from Secret Window

It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Granted, my cabin was also full of other teachers and the whole place is surrounded by sixth graders. However, I do have certain conveniences you wouldn’t associate with cabin life: a constant stream of hot coffee, blistering hot showers, and wifi. So writing up a whole new novel should be a snap, right? Not so much.

I find that I’m a solitary person. I like to write alone. Blog posts and the like, sure, I can do that anywhere. Writing on a fiction manuscript, for that I need total concentration. It’s true, there were bits and times where I was completely alone in the cabin, and I could have worked it in. Yet those times were never reliable. What I mean is, you never know when a colleague will wander in and want to talk.

Add to this the lack of any kind of desk or table. Not too bad if you’re typing out a 250 word blog post. But if you intend on crunching 1000 or 2000 words, you’ll find that neck cramps ensue. Trust me, I know. I got them midweek just working on curriculum.

Finally, there’s the lack of structure. Sure I need to show up at meals and there’s a recess block to oversee, but between those my time is mine. Yay, more time equals more writing. Try it sometime. I think you’ll find it’s the opposite. At home, I can carve out one or maybe two hours a day. Always at the same time. Reliable. Both before and after are filled with things to do. It makes my writing charged because I know if I don’t get it done, then I’ll have to wait another day.

This is not to say I got nothing done. Since I could tell that formal words-on-page style writing was going to be a challenge, I tackled things that I typically have a hard time doing at home. Plotting. I plotted out the whole dang novel. Start to finish. Not every scene, but the milestones. Seeing it as a whole allowed me to fix some plot problems. One particularly pesky one dogged me for a while. I stepped into the cabin shower for forty minutes and worked out the solution in my head (without having to pay for the water bill).

So the next time you dream of being alone in a cabin in the woods, think again. It’s not the best environment for writing. Try writing every day. Repeat until the novel is complete.

Tim Kane

5 comments on “The Myth of Writing in a Cabin in the Woods

  1. Like you, I need complete silence to write. If there is music playing in my ear or a conversation going one somewhere close by, I end up working that into what I’m writing and when I read it later on it gets very confusing because it generally doesn’t fit in the theme of things! My writer’s group & I had contemplated holing up in our cabin for a weekend. There are enough bedrooms for us each to hibernate with our laptops and work for extended periods, then meet for meals and discuss our progress. I worry, though, that we’ll just end up having one great big party all weekend and get no writing done whatsoever! Yes, I suppose it is an idea better left unexplored. Trying to work in writing time on a regular basis is probably the best way to go. 🙂

  2. OK I can’t pass on this one. I know everyone is different and I know I’m more different than most, BUT are you kidding me? A cabin filled with sixth graders and teachers, out of their element for a week. This should be a writers dream,especially a writer of MG or YA. Think of the fodder. All you have to do is lighten up, listen and take notes. Likewise, to the previous comment. a weekend in a cabin with other writers, party or not. Fodder, fodder, fodder.

    I read a bog post a few days ago about all writers being voyeurs. Kind of creeped me out at first, but when you think about it the best ones, probably are. (Check all the possible definitions.)

  3. Subhakar Das says:

    Agree with you. Yes, you really need to be alone to concentrate while writing. Plus, a regular routine to be at it every day. And a good desk…great post

  4. Julie says:

    Hey, just thought I’d let you know that I’m passing a 7×7 award onto you, because I like to share 🙂

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