The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Writer in Exile

by Tricia Dower

I’m at a secret location giving my best impression of Margaret Laurence, minus the booze, cigarettes, lung cancer, and suicide. Actually, my four-day self-exile is not at all Laurence-like. It’s just that whenever I imagine being left alone to do nothing but write, my mental picture is of her: round-shouldered over a typewriter in a lakeside cottage, turning out brilliant prose with smoke wreathing her head, a glass of whiskey close at hand.

Anyway, I’ve gone off to a place where I can see water and boats and a small mountain with fog-tipped evergreens. I brought my camera so I could show you but forgot the thingamajig that transfers the image to my computer, so you’re stuck with a photo of my dead muse. If I’d brought a recorder, I could share the rhythmic barking of sea lions, but they’d probably drive you nuts. When I take out my hearing aids, the sea lions sound like one big dripping tap.

I’ve got a small kitchen with tea, cereal, milk, blueberries, grapes, melon, cauliflower, mushrooms, Cheez Whiz, bread, soup, dried prunes, and pretzels to keep me going. The brilliant prose is harder to come by. I’ve sequestered myself to finish Part One of my next book, which I’m optimistically calling a novel. I’ve given myself a real challenge with this story and I doubt I'm producing even a word a minute. Mind you, each agonizing word is a gem, even the articles. (Would “a” have more impact than “the” in this line, I ponder at length, avoiding the tough work lying ahead in the unwritten sentences.) Whenever I start a new project, it feels as if it’s harder to write than the last one. But is that true?

“You don’t have to do this, you know,” Colin says, and, of course, he’s right. But what would I do, instead?

Image: Margaret (Peggy) Laurence in 1956


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Margaret Laurence committed suicide? How did I not know that?


Thu Feb 12, 08:50:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Yes, Anne, when she learned her cancer was terminal. She wanted to spare her family (and herself, I'd wager) the pain of a drawn out death.

Thu Feb 12, 12:30:00 pm GMT-5  
Anonymous Larry said...

You DO have to do this - for your readers.
There is no other voice and sensibility like your own.

Thu Feb 12, 10:49:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Aw, thanks, Larry. It's great to have you as a fan. I'm plugging away. I'm determined to finish tonight.

Thu Feb 12, 11:01:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

So gutsy, you are, and it's great that your Colin can see this. Best wishes for your novel, Tricia!

Fri Feb 13, 09:31:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, Tony. I'm home and Colin is, at this very moment, reading what I came back with. Wonder what he'll think?

Sat Feb 14, 12:41:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

I love Margaret Laurence! I should reread something soon.

Good luck with your exile. I'm envious. I have a holiday coming up and I'm going to try to crank out the work during the time alotted. My view will be of urban blight.

Can't wait to see some new writing from you!

Wed Feb 18, 09:48:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, Andrew. I may send you bits and pieces of the novel along the way. One of the changes as a result of working on a novel instead of short stories is less opportunity for peer critiques on Zoetrope. Luckily I have a writing group in Victoria for that.

Wed Feb 18, 01:46:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger T. Lee said...

I was just fantasizing about retreating to write sometime in June/July. How to do it?!

Sat Feb 21, 11:23:00 am GMT-5  

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