By Stella Harvey
To create One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Gárcia Márquez wrote every day for eighteen months in a small studio at the back of his house. His wife supplied him with cigarettes and food. He reportedly smoked six packs of cigarettes a day. His smoke filled studio, an envelope of grey, became known as the “Cave of the Mafia”.
While I’m not a smoker and I’m no fan of grotto like spaces, the idea of hiding away to write appeals to my obsessive-compulsive tendencies and reinforces the romantic and often times misguided notion I have of the genius toiling at a masterpiece. I lament the fact that I can’t write on a full time basis. If only I could have more time to write consistently, I’d get better. I’m sure I would. Okay, I likely couldn’t climb to the level of Márquez, but I could get better.
These are the things I say to myself when I’m stuck and can’t find a way into a story. If only I could hide out. If only I didn’t have all these other things to do. Eat? Who needs to eat? Holiday? What’s that? I need to focus on where I am in my story.
I complain bitterly when I can’t be at my desk, but in reality it is the living part of my life that feeds my writing. And it’s the time away from my work that helps me focus.
The people I meet, the conversations I overhear, the expressions I see pass between friends in my daily life informs my work, makes it real. What I experience makes me ask questions. And in trying to find answers, more questions come. As more questions come, my stories find their way.
Once or twice a year, I unplug. No, I’m not a robot. I’m a real girl. Woman. Whatever. No really. I am.
By unplug, I mean I switch off the Internet, cell phone, and the laptop. Not easy for me to do, but I do it because the quiet helps me think. I backpack in places where there is a lot of open space, but no room for electronics. The only tools I have at my disposal are my legs and my brain (most of the time). One foot in front of the other, clearing the mind so ideas flow freely like a breeze through yielding trees.
At other times, I disconnect by hanging out with those I love and admire, namely other writers and readers. I like closing my eyes and listening to the words brought to life by a writer reading his work out loud. I like hearing how those words impact other readers. This time with others renews me and allows me to go back into my office energized (and without Márquez’s cigarettes in hand) to face the blank page, the aloneness of my desk, the waiting for my characters and their stories to come to life.
Stella Harvey is the founder and Director of the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival. She is also the author of Nicolai’s Daughters. She will be participating in a workshop at the 2013 Whistler Readers and Writers Festival on October 18th entitled, You have a Manuscript, Now What. There is a wide array of publishing options from traditional publishing to epublishing and self-publishing. This workshop will discuss the options available to writers who have, or are close to having, a manuscript completed.
About the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival:
The Whistler Readers and Writers Festival started in 2001. Each year the three-day event brings world-renowned authors to Whistler for workshops, panel discussions and readings. The intimacy of this festival with its focus on events for both readers and writers makes it unique. For more information visit: whistlerreadersandwritersfestival.com