Sometimes it’s sad when everyone leaves but sometimes it’s just what you need. It’s not always possible to go away to write, on a course or retreat or holiday. Even if you can afford it, even if it’s free or subsidised, it’s just not always possible – for many reasons, commitments, time or ability constraints – to leave your home and set up camp somewhere with nothing to do but attend to your notebooks. Last week, for four whole days, I had the house to myself, my family all away doing their own thing. I got a lot done. Not so much new work but a chance to sit with newish poems and give them some careful attention, free of all distractions.
Perhaps it was simply because the timing was right for me, for once. It’s not that I don’t already have plenty of free time. This year, I’ve had a pretty clear calendar and many opportunities to write and I have been accumulating poems but in a rather messy fashion. But, recently, we’ve had more than the usual amount of admin to do, fetching and carrying people and belongings, family stuff, and my need to be alone has been growing, building a kind of tension that put the brakes on my creativity. Somehow, knowing I wasn’t alone in the house, even if Andrew was at the bottom of our garden in his office, interfered with my work-flow. An uncluttered four days alone has meant that I’ve taken a clear-headed look at what I’m writing, organised poems into folders on my computer, even put together a submission to a magazine. It feels like a massive relief.
Of course, I can’t banish my family from their home forever! And, frequently, I do good work by closing the door to my writing room and putting my head down. But this week, the silence and isolation was an absolute gift and I’m grateful and glad of it.