Every now and then, I like to feel connected to writing and real writers, so I subscribe to one of those writing magazines. Makes me feel I’m doing something positive towards my efforts to write, and you never know I might read an article that shows me how to write brilliantly, get published, become wealthy and happy beyond my dreams all without having to do any of the actual hard work.
Poets & Writers magazine sent me a free copy the other day. Many magazines are so desperate for subscriptions that if you once had a subscription and let it lapse, after a while they send you a free one and try to lure you back. And it almost worked. I was reaching for the check book about to fill out one of the 4(count ‘em) subscription cards that fell out the magazine the first time I picked it up. Then I noticed that most of the issue was about writers retreats. Retreats, I thought, retreats? I remember when writers used to ADVANCE or even CHARGE headlong into the world. Nineteenth century writers, for example, were notorious walkers, always off out somewhere meeting people, seeing places, coming across situations they could use in their writing, everything from a little background color all the way up to fully-fledged characters having sex and killing each other. Sometimes at the same time, depending on which 19th century writers you read.
Writers today are more likely to be hiding in broom closets or airports connected to their laptops, working on carpal tunnel syndrome and pretending to meet people and go places. No wonder a lot of writing wishes it was back in the 19th century, where a man (or woman) wrote with a pen with one hand, and had an occasional wank with the other, just to keep the juices flowing.
Many of these retreats, I was horrified to learn, are stuffy buildings often attached to universities where writers actually pay to go and get away from it all ... in order to write about it all. Get away from it all? How about getting out in it all and getting on with it!
But it gets worse, for there are places you can pay to go on a retreat, places where great writers once worked. I kid you not, you can rent time in one of Kerouac’s shacks. Can you get a week on one of Bukowski’s flophouse mattresses (bring your own fleas)? But you can stay at the childhood home of Robert Frost while you polish off your latest volume of immortal verse, take a dump in Norman Mailer’s toilet while you scribble that searing indictment of modern society, and fix yourself a midnight cheese sandwich in James Thurber’s childhood kitchen.
I mean, whatever next? Stay in a in Bavarian bed and breakfast where Beethoven spent his hols and finish that unfinished symphony? Travel to Birmingham and throw up in Ozzie Osbourne’s teenage toilet while you finish writing the songs for your next heavy metal album?
Tell you what, I’m going to offer time travel AND inspiration. For $5,000 you can sleep on my couch for a weekend, so in the future you’ll be able to say that you finished your first novel in precisely the same location as that Luke James. Only you did it twenty years before he penned his masterpiece. Or you could just send me the money and save on the airfare. I’m not fussed.
Causes Luke James Supports
Doctors Without Borders