What Will You Write?

“What will you write?”

A simple question, inviting a simple answer. It was a question I heard dozens of times during the last few months of 2010, after friends and colleagues learned of my decision to step down from my full-time job and become a full-time freelance writer.

Walden wrote by a pond. I'll be writing in a windowless breakout room, but I'll be imagining something like Crater Lake, Oregon.

My answer was never simple. It was, instead, a shopping list of possibility.

Book-length nonfiction. Critical essay. Blog. News coverage. News analysis. Scholarly review. Memoir. Novel. Humor.

I included every possibility but my actual shopping list.

I began 2011 pursuing each possibility and then some. Not surprisingly, reality has been forcing me to make some hard choices — to abandon some of these possibilities, or at least put them aside for awhile.

Next week I will face my toughest choice.

For five straight days, seven hours each day, I will work on one project and one project alone. I’m attending my first writer’s retreat.

I am forcibly imposing self-discipline by writing a sizable check andΒ  blocking off a chunk of my calendar. This retreat is happening, so I must make a choice.

I’m still wrestling with what that one project will be. But I know this much. When I arrive for my first day next Monday, and the instructor asks “What will you write?” I will at least have an answer.

About Patrick Ross

I'm the author of Committed: A Memoir of the Artist's Road.

25 Responses to “What Will You Write?”

  1. Congratulations on your first retreat, Patrick! Huge step in the direction set by your heart. And I would tell you to keep going. What to write? Take a deep breath. Close your eyes and say, ‘what shall I write?’ What is the first thing that comes to mind? Even if you have a ton of reasons not to go that route, the fact that that specific subject matter popped up is an important -if not the only- clue. Good luck!! All the best!
    Maryse

  2. Patrick, that’s so exciting about the writing retreat! You’re going to have a blast, and not just with the focus on writing for seven days isolated from the usual distractions. Being with the other writers will also be amazing.

    Added to Maryse’s wise words, I would say, “Don’t forget to let it be fun.” Knowing you, I doubt you would do thatβ€”but there’s so much pressure on writers these days, it can be hard with all the voices coming at you. So don’t lose sight of what you really love the most about your writing. Maybe that should be the question: “What would I most love to write?”

    ~ Milli

  3. I don’t have anything profound or witty to add. Just – congratulations, Patrick! I acknowledge you for the courage to take the leap into the retreat … and the courage to narrow your focus. I am excited to see what comes next! πŸ™‚

  4. Its always my biggest challenge- figuring out where to sit down and focus! Congrats on a writing retreat- that sounds like it will be very focused and meaningful! Best of luckπŸ™‚

  5. As an aside Im new to your blog and am vurious how you find full time freelancing, in the internet age and the decline of paying mahazimes ke it seems like a tougher thing to do, at least road is what I found

    • It has certainly meant an income drop, which I’m hoping is temporary. My previous job left little in the tank for me creatively to use in any other pursuit. I left with a network of contacts and some opportunities for short- and long-term income, which I’m pursuing. I see this as an entrepreneurial venture; it will take some time to build the business right, but I’m prepared to take that time.

  6. Good luck, Patrick. I’ve never done a retreat. I’m a little jealous. (And by little I mean “insanely.”)

  7. Congratulation on your first writers retreat! I have yet to go to one, but I’m applying for one later in the year. Please, keep us posted!

    And a low-residency MFA? Very exciting. Please share on that, too

    • I agree with Danielle: it will be very juicy once you started sharing your experiences from the retreat. We will be all ears!

      (And all eyes, because we know Patrick always delivers the treats when it comes to images, as well. Hint, hint.)

      Danielle, good luck with your application.

      ~ Milli

      • I do love posting photos with funky captions, but I don’t know if my fellow students would want me snapping away with a camera!πŸ™‚

        • You could always give them the camera and get funky funny photos of you!πŸ™‚

        • I agree that snapping away at your fellow students without permission would be invasive and I know you wouldn’t do that. But a photo of your writing space would be interesting (and you can do that during a break if you’re sharing it with others).

          Also, most people will agree to be in a group photo at the end of the event. I’ve noticed that most people enjoy having someone else organize this.

          Whenever I’ve done the Fear of Writing Clinic, I ask people to gather in front of a landmark (such as the sign for the coffee shop we’re in) but only for those who want to be in the photo. I’ve never actually had anyone say no.

          I always made clear that I was intending to post it on my website to give them the option to back out. The only time I didn’t post the results online was when we held a pajama party to go with one of my writing prompts. It was an all-woman occasion and we wanted to be free to wear our most outrageous sleepwear.πŸ˜‰

    • Clearly I’ll have to blog on the retreat after I’m done, thank you for the interest. No application needed for this one, just a checkbook.πŸ™‚

      I just this morning agreed to attend the Vermont College of Fine Arts program I mentioned to Kate above. I then received an email from one of their faculty, the amazing Sue William Silverman, who wrote she is excited I’ll be one of her students. Wow! Fortunately I didn’t pass out, because my forehead likely wouldn’t agree with the surface of my wood desk.

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