Sadly, my dear friend Patrick Robbins’s blog, MeTube, is no more. Pat had one of the most fun blogs I’ve come across. Luckily, a fan decided to take over the blog, but it won't be quite the same without Pat's unique sensibility. The video clip he chose for his last post is fantastic. This might be my favorite farewell since watching Claire Fisher drive through the desert in the finale of Six Feet Under.
Pat is leaving MeTube to be a modern-day Thoreau; he’s moving into an Airstream trailer in the middle of nowhere with no electricity or telephone, so he can focus on writing his novel. He will go into town once a week for groceries and to check his e-mail, which I’m sure Thoreau would have done instead of visiting his mother had it been available to him at the time. I applaud Pat’s discipline and have refrained from asking him all sorts of motherly questions like, “Just how do you plan on feeding yourself with no refrigerator?”
Writing in exile has been the dream of many a writer. Even if living in a trailer in the wilderness isn’t a possibility, there is always the hope that one day we’ll be able to abandon our day jobs and devote ourselves full-time to our real work. I was lucky enough to be able to do this for a few years, so here’s my advice for Pat and anyone else who wants to stay at home by themselves all day and write.
- Make a Schedule. Somehow we think freedom is the answer, but most of us function best with limits. Try to wake up and take your meals at the same time every day. Schedule regular breaks and time for leisure. Organizing your time gives direction to your day.
- Talk to yourself—out loud. When you’re in your head all day, it’s surprising how quickly you can lose the ability to form a coherent sentence. Vocal exercises are necessary so that when the opportunity for conversation strikes, you’ll be able to reply with real words instead of primal grunts. Talking out loud also prevents you from experiencing the very unsettling phenomenon of being startled by the sound of your own voice.
- Lack of sleep + Isolation = Cuckoo For
CocoaPuffs. Writing well means being in top form, and that begins with sleep. Exhaustion opens the door to all sorts of paranoia, neuroses, and phobias. If you find yourself wallowing in idle worries take a nap, then go to a public place or talk to someone.
- Exercise. It’s tempting to work on your story every waking minute, especially when you’re on a roll, but it’s important to give your mind a rest. Exercise is one of the best ways to do this, taking you out of your mental fog and bringing you right back to reality.
- Volunteer. If you have the time, volunteering a few hours a week to a place like your local library is a great way to achieve all of the above. Volunteering helped me through many a rough writing patch by giving me a sense of purpose. Plus, it’s a great way to meet new people.