Pulling a Thoreau

Featured Image: Henry David Thoreau’s house site at Walden Pond

I had a really interesting week in my little isolation chamber. I admit I was nervous to take it on. I was nervous about making sure I would be able to visit all the museums and attractions I wanted to visit, I was nervous about finding parking, I was nervous about being in an Airbnb off the beaten path on what looks like a very large family’s farm. But I did it, and I did it well, in my opinion. This little farmhouse loft has felt like a little studio apartment to me, something I’ve been dying to have—a place of my own.

What I wasn’t actually nervous about was the writing part. I thought I would be able to accomplish everything I wanted to and more, and yet even though I did write three – now four—blog posts, forty-five hundred words for the story I wanted to complete (and hopefully will be able to complete today) and finished reading a book, I still feel like I didn’t do enough. I feel like I don’t have enough time – once I get into the groove of things (and I have; I started writing this before my bacon was even done cooking), I will have to go back to work.

On my walk around Walden Pond yesterday, the famous one that Henry David Thoreau spent two years at in a very tiny house (desk, bed, wood-burning stove), I got… upset. I got jealous of a dead man. Jealous that he had no debt to pay, no bills to pay, no cell phone to bother him, jealous that he could just fuck off in the woods for not just a week but two whole years.

I started trying to think of ways I could do that: First of all, I would need 55,000 dollars to pay off my debt. This would require a rich relative, a sugar daddy, or a go fund me. Second, I would need a place to stay. Maybe my dad could help me build a fully functioning cabin—but I would still need to buy the land, which could be very costly. Third, I would still need money to buy groceries and the like. This could easily be a 100,000-dollar writing exercise.

The fact that it would be near impossible to do this without some rich benefactor or a lottery win was really quite crushing. So crushing that it was apparently apparent on my face as I walked in the Walden Pond gift shop. A nice man at the register asked me where I was from and what I was doing (I got this question a lot this week, as a young lady walking around alone is quite an interesting sight). I told him where I was coming from and that I was on a writing retreat. He said, “I could tell,” and then asked how the writing was going. I took a deep breath and said, “It’s…harder than you’d think.” He laughed and said, actually, I would know, I’m a writer too. He asked if I made a living off my writing, and I laughed pretty hard and said no. I continued to lament about how I would love to do what Thoreau did, but there is a lot of debt to overcome first. He empathized with me. We talked more about writing, and I left feeling a little bit better, also having bought one of those boxes of magnetic words for your fridge that was Edgar Allen Poe inspired.

I had a meal alone at a restaurant and then went back to my room to write. I wrote two scenes that were immediately deleted. I thought maybe I should try editing a different story, but even that got me frustrated. I felt for a moment that I was just a shitty writer – what was I doing spending all this time, effort, and money to write something no one will read, and no one will publish.

I came to the conclusion that maybe it didn’t matter if no one ever read or published my work. Because at least I love doing it. Lots of people have hobbies that they spend countless amounts of money on to keep doing, and most of them are not as productive as writing is.

Tomorrow I will go home and the illusion that I am some illustrious writer on a long and arduous trip to find her muse will be broken. If it is anything like my last writing retreat, I will be too tired and sad to write for a little while.

That being said, if you do know anyone with 100,000 dollars burning a hole in their pocket, let a girl know.

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