Road to a Treehouse Pt. II
You can read part I of my retreat here.
The biggest reason I wanted to take a few days away from normal life was because I have a little less than 8 weeks (really, 7 weeks now) before my first MFA applications are due. I’m in the process of applying to programs to study Creative Nonfiction writing and the applications all require a portfolio (ranging between 20-30 pages of my best work). The portfolio is the most important piece of these applications and since most of the fully funded programs I’m looking at have acceptance rates between 3-5%, I’m feeling the pressure to make sure the pieces I include are the best I can make them.
Knowing that I wanted to spend a majority of my time in Asheville writing, I did my homework on coffee shops that I wanted to visit. Even when I’m in Atlanta, I do most of my writing in coffee shops. I thrive on the atmosphere; there’s something about the noise and the movement that helps me focus. All in all, I made it to two coffeeshops and a bookstore while in Asheville. I visited Trade and Lore (my favorite) and also Summit Coffee Co. The bookstore (Battery Park Book Exchange) was pretty cool…and I’m pretty proud of myself for walking out with only three books.
My heated bed in my Airbnb treehouse was also an amazing place to write. But relaxation doesn’t usually lend itself to my productivity…I usually ended up staring at the curtains fluttering in the wind or just laying under the covers. I also read a lot while in bed; I started and nearly finished On Looking, a collection of lyric essays by Lia Purpura. And even when I wasn’t getting a lot done in the writing / reading department, I was pretty okay with it. I needed the rest.
Sidenote: rain was not in the forecast when I packed and I was very salty that I wasn’t prepared for it. I love rain, but not having a rain jacket was not my best move. However, Greenville was very pretty in the rain.
ALSO. If you’re ever in Greenville, near Greenville, or capable of driving to Greenville, please go to Methodical Coffee. I’ve been following them on Instagram for a while and I occasional get to taste their coffee when I visit Chrome Yellow. And I figured that it was relatively on my way from Asheville back to Atlanta, so I took the time to stop by their shop. And it was SO worth it. Their shop is gorgeous (also their La Marzocco espresso machine made me wanna cry) and I had such a relaxing hour or two sitting and drinking my cappuccino before heading home. All the little touches, like their cups and saucers and their bags of coffee and their succulents, just made my little coffee-nerd-aesthetic-heart melt.
I went into the week with the crazy idea that I was going to come back from my trip with fully-finished drafts of all three of my essays for my portfolio. That didn’t happen. Not even close. I got a lot of good work done and I’m proud of the time I spent with my phone in airplane mode focussing. But writing is hard. Especially because all three of my portfolio pieces are very personal and are taking a lot of digging deep into hard-to-deal-with shit in my past and present.
Damn, I’m not sure what else to say. Writing is hard. Writing nonfiction is hard and it often is very painful. It doesn’t feel like a choice for me, though, it feels like writing is something that I can’t decide not to do. It’s simply part of my existence and my being. Sometimes I want to shut my brain off and not think anymore. I felt this on the last night of my retreat, when I just wanted to watch Netflix until my brain was numb and I didn’t have to think about my writing or my life anymore. And it was hard to be away from Wifi and to not be able to do that.
There is a big part of me that thinks that all of my applications will be rejected this year. I know that a lot of people have to go through multiple rounds of MFA applications before getting into a program (especially the more competitive full funded ones). And I’d like to think that I’m prepared for that reality, that I’ll be okay with going through another round. I know I have a lot to learn and my writing needs a lot of work. And part of me just wants to quit and take a good long break and to just do something else, something easier. But maybe nothing is easy. I don’t know. I know I can’t quit writing, even if I wanted to, even if I tried. It’s too ingrained. It’s too much of who I am.