Diane Hopkins: If Only I had Another Week Here
In my first few days staying at KSP I locked myself in, the unseasonably wet April days a perfect excuse to stay in my cosy cabin and never leave.
As the rain pounded against the large window over my writing desk and the gum trees outside lost their sharp definition, my mind wandered easily into the memoir I was here to edit and rewrite.
Fuelled by a generous loot of Easter chocolate, I made quick work of restructuring the parts of my book that weren’t working and coming up with a new outline. If I keep going at this rate, I thought after the first couple of days, I’m going to end these two weeks with a finished manuscript.
Over the following days, as I worked deep into the heart of my memoir–its themes and purpose and structure–I discovered I had more to do than I’d hoped. My original elation stumbled. I felt like going out to work for an hour or two at a nearby coffee shop, but I didn’t allow myself the pleasure of it. Suddenly it seemed like my cabin was a pressure cooker where every hour and every check of my word count was of sign of how well I was progressing. Even though I’d been busy in front of my laptop and my whiteboard was full of fresh ideas and insights, I couldn’t help thinking, I’m not working fast enough.
But then I realised this way of thinking wasn’t doing anything to improve my productivity, it was just draining the joy from my experience here. So, I let go of the pressure-cooker metaphor and adopted a new one. My cabin is a slow cooker, I thought. Instead of worrying about making fast progress, I now visualised my writing marinating slowly for two weeks to improve its complexity of flavour, knowing the longer I stayed immersed in it, the tastier it would become.
I attended some of the regular weekly writing groups and no longer felt guilty that I should have been in my cabin writing instead. The pieces I read aloud in those groups helped bring my book to life, connecting it with the reactions of readers, the real purpose for writing it in the first place. The feedback I received from fellow writers acted like cooking instructions from other chefs, so that when I returned to my cabin, I knew what was working well and what I needed to do more of.
By the end of the first week, as much as I’d grown to love my slow-cooker cabin, as the sun emerged and the normal warmth of April returned, I allowed myself to venture out to that coveted coffee shop in the forest. I felt inspired by the abundant beauty of the national parks and the creative Perth hills community, and, after a couple of hours, I was ready to return with fresh enthusiasm. The trip helped me find the right balance of immersion and breaks – of working hard toward a goal and letting the pleasure of writing remind me why I was doing this.
The second week went by in a flash, and while I was satisfied with what I’d achieved, I couldn’t help but think: If only I had another week here…
Top 10 Writing Tips (at KSPWC):
Have a plan for what you want to get done here, but also let it change and evolve.
Don’t judge yourself on word counts or hours spent writing.
Acknowledge the deeper work of writing: the creative breakthroughs and important insights.
No need to feel guilty for having so much time just to write. Remember that you’re dedicating this time to an activity that holds purpose for you (and for your readers too).
Monitor your self-talk and regularly prune the thoughts that aren’t serving you or your writing goals.
Go to the writing groups and read a piece aloud for feedback. These groups are great for getting a reader’s POV and connecting with other writers.
Use the whiteboard as much as possible. Brainstorm plot, character, themes–whatever you’re having trouble keeping inside your head.
Balance time locked in your cabin with time spent writing at a café, having chats with other writers, or walks in the forest.
Writing podcasts are great when you need a break from writing. Give your brain a rest while learning some craft tricks-of-the-trade.
Enjoy your time immersed in the craft that you love. Let everything you do or hear or speak inspire your writing.
Diane Hopkins - First Edition Fellow, April 2023