Why I get the hell out of town and treat words like lovers.

Why I get the hell out of town and treat words like lovers.

I think, like most women, I’ve spent most of my life taking care of other people. I remember that niggling voice in the back of my mind whispering I was just as deserving of love, care and attention as everyone around me, but it was like a compulsion. I gave what I wanted to receive, and depleted myself in the process. It was years before I realized my happiness was my responsibility.  I was in my forties before I got that shit turned around and started taking care of myself first.

I think that’s why I write somewhat the opposite. I write women who make badass moves, bold self-protective and unapologetic choices, and care for themselves as fiercely as they care for the people they love. When I realized what I was doing a few years ago, I said to my wife (at the time) “I’m going home to Eureka Springs to write.” And I did; I booked a room at the writer’s colony in town and wrote my ass off. I wrote as I’d always wanted to write, turning and burning five thousand words a day. When I opened my eyes every morning, I reached over to my computer and ran my fingers over the keys like it was a lover. I sat on the back deck of the house and watched the deer wander out of the woods at dusk and the eagles gliding over the tops of the trees and became my characters, lived in their skins until I recorded their stories.

It’s my hometown, populated by ghosts of girlfriends past, but somehow nothing mattered anymore but the words. I’ll never forget how it felt to care for my soul like it was someone I loved, and since then I get the hell out of dodge two or three times a year and go somewhere to write.

I went to Rothesay, on the Isle of Bute, in Scotland last time. I had a fourth floor flat that overlooked the sea. It’s only accessible by ferry, and if you need luxury this is not your island, but it had everything I loved. A fish and chips place that sold the very best chips and curry sauce and the waitress that brought them to the table every time smelled like fresh air. I wanted her to stay, and almost asked her to, but then decided to eat my chips and try not to be a stalker.

There was a pub called the Golfer’s Bar with red velvet seats and dogs napping by the fire, and I went there every day and wrote by the window. The bartender, a silver-haired man with a wicked accent and an unbelievably beautiful voice (he burst into song behind the bar frequently with no warning whatsoever), asked what I was writing. I said two words: A book. From that moment on, he took care of me like I was family, even coming over and handing me a tissue when he saw me trying to wipe the smudges off my glasses with my shirt. For whatever reason, he wanted to help, and I let him. I can’t put it into words, but I’ll never forget him.

The point is, my writing got a damn sight better when I started honoring it. And myself. And around the same time, my characters starting kicking ass.