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HGTV formula conjures dream writer’s retreat

May 3, 2014

Here’s what happens when you fall asleep to “Island Hunters” on HGTV: I dreamed I was with a couple looking at remote island properties that could accommodate up to 20 people. True to the Goldilocks nature of the HGTV formula, one property was serene and beautiful but too small, while the next was big enough for their purposes but its condition reminded them too much of a frat house at the end of the school year. The third property broke with the formula—it was not just right but over budget. Meanwhile, the couple morphed into friends and they already owned the third property, which was a compound that included a large, open building reminiscent of an old-style gym and included a raised stage along one of the long sides.

A HGTV fable. . .

The husband appeared to be a music management colleague from my other waking life. He said that the large space was useless. No, I countered, you can do your art in here. Plus you could close off one end to make classrooms, and the bedrooms in the nearby building could accommodate workshop participants. In fact, the compound would make a perfect writer’s retreat, and I could even put it together for him, as long as I still had room for my own creative writing. The husband was not engaged in his own creative work, and didn’t want to be reminded of it (pop psychologist friends, feel free to insert knowing smirk here). So he stormed off into the small town to drink. Of course, since he shouldn’t be driving because he was planning to get rip-roaring drunk, a city taxi showed up to take him on his binge. That is dream logic.

Vermont farmhouseThe dream of a writer’s retreat run by moi first arose when I was in my twenties, long before I had learned to separate the creator from the editor or how to thread a narrative path through a forest of material. The earliest fantasy took the form of a big, rambling house on a hill, surrounded by acres of green fields, probably in Vermont. A key requirement was a lovely carriage house that would be my retreat from the retreat and would be off-limits to resident writers. I would also be unapologetic in wielding dictatorial control over invitations, lengths of stay, and requests to leave due to bad behavior (as defined by me) or slacking off work. All of the thousands of details of actually running such a living/writing space would be, you know, taken care of.

I dreamed up the island writer’s retreat as part of a HGTV fable. That’s not real life. Real life is suffering. Not real life is the stuff that dreams are made of. Not real life is the source of real writing. Real writing is real life. Not writing is real life suffering.

Meanwhile, if you’re seeking a dictator to run a writer’s retreat and can offer lodging in a cozy carriage house, I’m your girl.

Remote luxe island locations considered.

Farmhouse Exterior by Burlington Architects & Designers TruexCullins Architecture + Interior Design

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One Comment
  1. “Not writing is real life suffering.”

    Yes.

    Love you and your words.

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