In the first part of my interview with Trudy Hale, editor of Streetlight magazine and owner of The Porches writing retreat, we discussed the relationship she developed with a neglected farmhouse in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains. In this segment, we talk about the writing. (And all the ways we contrive not to.)
The Porches is such a healing place. How has living there changed your writing?
Oh, that’s a great question. Well, first of all, I have written more descriptively, or taken more time with description. You have different craft elements, and writing descriptions for me is the most–I hate to use the word tedious—but there are other parts of the craft that I like, like the dialogue. Just to stop and linger descriptively about the physical aspect of where the characters are, I find that I’m able to slow down more as I’ve been writing here, and to linger more, and to flesh out the bones of the story. I have a tendency to kind of speed along the story, keep the pace going. I’ve been able to, once I’ve been writing here, to say, “I need to linger here,” and be more concrete and let all the senses play out; taste, touch, smell.
But one thing that’s happened to my writing, too, is, because I’m so involved with the retreat, I sometimes find it harder to take longer periods of time to write, and this is something I’ve got to work on. I enjoy doing the retreat so much, but sometimes I’d rather make up a writer’s bed–and I hated housework when I was growing up. I hated domestic stuff.
I never enjoyed doing any kind of housework before, but making up a writer’s bed brings me a certain amount of joy; turning the sheet down, and making the room up. It’s almost like I’m making this room for someone who’s going to come here and create, dream dreams; and that’s an attitude that’s definitely changed in me. But it also is something that I will–because I enjoy it–I’d rather do that sometimes than sit down and write. You know how we do with writing–Resist it when it’s the very thing that sutures our soul back together.
Making up a writer’s bed brings me a certain amount of joy; turning the sheet down, and making the room up. It’s almost like I’m making this room for someone who’s going to come here and create, dream dreams.
Yes. You need a retreat other than yours.
I need a retreat from my retreat or better writing habits. I have met so many wonderful writers and people. It’s really enriched my life to have conversations about writing. I used to socialize a lot more at the beginning of the retreat. I’d have a glass of wine and hang out, but I realized, as time goes on, I have to focus on my writing.
Yes. So, when you’re in your rhythm, what does that look like for you? What does your writing process look like?
I have to write in the morning. I have to honor that time, and I’ve had to really fight, because there’s a part of me that wants to take care of the retreat first, or check all the emails. And I have to become conscious–okay, you’re going to sit down and do the writing–because if you start checking the emails, you fall down the rabbit hole. When I have that first cup of coffee, I say, “It’s not going to make any difference to whose ever email that you don’t get back to it ’til 11 o’clock instead of 9 o’clock.”
I have to have a very direct conversation with myself. I go through runs. I’ll establish a habit when it becomes easy because it’s a habit–like you get up, and exercise, and brush your teeth. But then, I’ll have these times where I have taken a trip and it’s broken my rhythm, or I have some family crisis. So, it’s a constant rededication to honoring that sitting down, and also not being judgmental, and keeping the faith, like, “Okay, maybe this morning I’m going to write a lot of stuff that’s not going to be used, or won’t be as good as I’d like it, and just put that aside and say ‘That’s okay.’”
So, a lot of it’s an inner dialogue with the self about the writing and the relationship with the writing, and it’s an ongoing relationship. And there’s good days and there’s bad days.
But there’s nothing like it; that feeling when you’ve really gotten into it, and time… I guess it’s like a musician or any artist. It’s like there’s no time. It’s like you go in what they call the zone. You know when you’ve gone there. That feeling—there’s nothing like it; and it nourishes, it restores, it centers. It feels like I’m a stringed instrument and someone’s tuned me.
It’s like there’s no time. It’s like you go in what they call the zone. You know when you’ve gone there…It feels like I’m a stringed instrument and someone’s tuned me.
It’s great. And if I go for too long a time without really honoring that writing time and writing, I get really kind of grumpy…just a little out of plumb.
In the third part of this interview we talk more writing and Trudy’s ongoing projects – Streetlight magazine and writing workshops.