How writers recharge

Retreat? Recharge? Is there a difference and do writers need both? I’d argue, yes. My fellow MissDemeanors shared their official Retreat thoughts last week, while I was on a Recharge trip. A recharge isn’t the same as a working trip, where I’m running around researching a place, taking notes, jotting details on a map about smells and sounds, hoping to capture that perfect element that says “here.” My trip was a vacation.

What’s a vacation, really?

It’s taken me half a lifetime to understand that vacation is when I want most to get back to work. Perhaps because I live in a rural area, I usually take vacations in a city, or at least an urban environment (I’ll categorize any charming town in this umbrella for the purposes of vacation). Vacation means museums, art galleries, historic places, and, of course, new bookstores! While my mind is relaxed and roaming freely, there is a super charge of interest in everything. Vacation is the font of all ‘what ifs’ to me. What if they find buried bodies or treasure under the Frick during the renovation excavation? (My friend, the contractor in charge of this project, would be horrified at the thought.)

All sorts of things can happen in museums

During our tour of museums, my imagination was in overdrive: What if we were locked in the MET overnight (I’ve read The Mixed-up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler too many times not to imagine this.) The Barnes Foundation inspired comparisons to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and their tragic and still unsolved theft. (Over lunch at the Gardner my husband said, What if we see the news tomorrow and the museum was robbed right after we left? We immediately selected the likely culprits from among the other patrons dining in the garden. We decided that the kindly old gentleman in the wheelchair wasn’t really unable to walk. And while he seemed to be speaking to his daughter on the phone, all that Father’s Day talk could have been code for I’ve disarmed the upper rear door alarm. He looked smart enough to organize a sophisticated heist, and maybe he just wanted one of the smaller Renoirs.)

Who’s who?

Outside my daily environment people are different, they speak differently, dress differently, and it is all fodder for writing. In an outdoor cafe in Philadelphia two young women were talking, one clearly a new mother, complete with infant in her arms, the other was a young professional, neatly dressed and running through a list of things filling her day. I presumed they were friends meeting to give the new mother a chance to visit with an adult, and show off her baby. Oh, how wrong I was. The new mother was the boss, and after listening very attentively to her ‘friend’ (her assistant, I finally realized) she fired off instructions: skip that, hand that over to X, table the last three, and send me the files on A and B. Appearances can be deceiving. If this were a movie the young assistant would prove more capable than the boss (although I think that’s been done, anyone seen Working Girl?)

Now that I’m home, I’m recharged. Not the peaceful focused retreat we sometimes dream about, but energized and ready to put words on the page. What energizes you? Share your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter!

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