I live in Montana; it’s fucking stupid beautiful. “The last best place,” important writers have said. You can rent a cabin in the woods at Lolo Hot Springs with a weird bunk bed and an electrical outlet for 35 dollars a night. So I cancelled my Wednesday morning class and I fucking drove myself out here and here I am.
“I think I’m in the wrong place,” I told the woman behind the counter at the hot springs. “I have a reservation for a cabin.”
“You’re not,” she said. She was around 40 and pretty. “Cabin 12.” She showed me a map of the layout of the cabins. Remember No Country For Old Men? It was just like that. (Also Psycho: twelve rooms, twelve vacancies…)
“How many?” she said.
“Oh. Just getting away for awhile?” she said, consolingly.
I tried to decide in the moment if telling her I was a writer would somehow make it less weird, and decided it wouldn’t.
“Yes,” I said.
She gave me a ticket for the hot springs behind her, like at a carnival. It said “admit one.” ‘Are you kidding?’ I almost said, but didn’t. She explained that the natural pool was to the left, and the other one, you know, with concrete and lawn chairs, was to the right. She apologized for the chemicals in the pool on the right, which I found touching. Another thing I almost said: ‘Could I have cabin 13 instead? You see, I’m a writer and I plan on scaring the shit out of myself tonight with dark fantasy.’
Whatever, there’s already a couple staying in cabin 13, but man, you should see cabin 12. And you will, for I took pictures. I hate bunk beds. Sleep on the top and you’re suspended in space, the dangers of which are obvious, but the bottom bunk feels like the beginnings of a pressure chamber. I’ve been on a kick recently and everything reminds me of Edgar Allan Poe: pits, pendulums, and people encased in walls. The room has a closet. Tentatively, I opened it, and found nothing inside. No dead bodies, no black cats, nothing. I have no one to blame but myself. After all, they didn’t know I came here to write.
The conditions are too perfect. I mean, there’s a fucking babbling brook just outside my window; I can hear it still. I’m writing this at 10pm. I got here around 6. Here’s what I’ve done so far:
- I made house. It took about 9 seconds.
- I went outside to check out the river but the weather is pretty shitty. Driiizzle.
- I took some pictures of my room and myself. The pictures feature a room full of promise and a girl dreading her future.
- There could be no more delaying. I started to write.
- More precisely, I read everything of the story that had come before. Tonight I am focused on revision of this terrible, bleak tale stuffed with pathos. Incest, suicide, betrayal, you know, a greatest hits kind of thing.
- I finally started writing. I’d say of the four hours I’ve been here I’ve eked out about an hour and a half of solid writing. Unless you count this blog post, which I don’t.
- The story’s still not done and it makes me sick to think about it. The original draft was about 14 pages. Workshop made helpful suggestions like “revamp this entire character” and “add a hundred more scenes” and “make fundamental changes to the stories overall arch and structure.” Did I mention my friends are assholes?
- The story is now 24 pages and I’m only just now approaching the third act. I grew weary. I decided to take a break
- I decided to take a line break.
- Whenever I start to feel a little uneasy about writing, I like to pick up the short story of an author I respect in order to really bring the feeling home. Without trying it always turns out to be just the right story to elucidate whatever it is that’s gone terribly wrong with my own piece.
- I read Joy William’s story, “Substance.” I find often whenever I read one of her stories that I am so moved by the experience I want to get up and tell somebody all about it. This is almost never a good idea. It’s almost as bad as when someone starts telling you about something funny they saw in a television show. Actually it’s probably worse. What I admired about the story was the weight of it, and yet it’s told so swiftly. She reminded me how unswift my 24 pages are and still nowhere near the finish line. The story is on my kindle and it’s impossible to guess how long it actually is in “microsoft word,” you know, the unit I measure my life in.
It’s 10:30 now. I woke up at 11 this morning. There’s no Internet and I am so very alone. This is what I paid for. There’s nothing to do but go back to the writing. Anyway. God help me. I’ll be back to wrap this up later.
- I finished a draft of the story before bed, which is to say, I ended it abruptly. 26 pages, suckers. It’s called “Get Well Soon.” And I hope you do.
- I came to learn real values.
- I never used my free hot springs pass. Maybe if I had someone with me, but electing to take a bath by myself with a bunch of strangers, I decided, takes more courage than I could muster.