Writing in the woods: My artist residency begins

September 11, 2009

“You've got the cabin in the woods,” said the woman who showed me to my writer's studio.

She wasn't kidding. I had followed her in my car about half a mile away from the main Hambidge facilities to a small cottage surrounded by trees. This was where I would spend the next five weeks as an artist in residency, working on my travel memoir.

Son Studio, my writing space at The Hambidge Center

Son Studio, my writing space at The Hambidge Center

The loudest noise in my new workspace is the chorus of crickets outside. It is so perfectly quiet here. And I will never be interrupted. One of the few rules at The Hambidge Center is that no one is allowed to come to my studio unless I invite them (not that they could find it). I could write nude all day – hey, we all have our writing vices – and no one would know or care. This space is all mine.

Inside my writing studio.

Inside my writing studio.

The other rule is that fellows are required to eat dinner together Tuesday through Friday. I doubt this rule is ever broken. After spending all day by myself, I'm pretty much dying for some human interaction. And The Center provides a chef who cooks evening meal for us. Her all-vegetarian creations are magnificent, not to mention her tasty deserts like apple pie and orange-chocolate brownie. (I’m responsible for the rest of my meals.)

During these suppers, I've gotten to know the other seven residents here. Our ages range from 26 – 58, we hail from around the country, and we work in various disciplines. Four of us are writers — there’s a poet, two novelists and me. Then there’s a photographer, a potter and a musical composer. Each is staying for a different amount of time, so during my five weeks, some will leave and be replaced by new faces. They're such smart, contentious people, each with their own take on the world.

So what do I do during the day? I write. Then I take a break to run or hike on Hambidge's many trails. Then I write some more. Without the Internet in my studio, cell phone access, a television or even a radio, my distractions here are limited, and I’ve already gotten a lot done.

There’s something about being surrounded by nature that makes me feel incredibly creative. I’ve thought a lot about it during the last week, as I walked by myself through the woods, and I still don’t know how to explain it. But whatever that energy is, I’ll take it. I feel lucky to be here.

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