My Island Writer’s Paradise

I was talking with a would-be writer last week who told me that if he expected to ever get any writing done, he would have to find a far off desert island where he could hear his own thoughts.

I told him with a little swagger that I wrote every day from a desert island and it was on Goose Creek in Floyd County. I half-believed at the time that this metaphor was true, but since then, I’ve had second thoughts.

Yes, I do feel at times the kind of serenity and isolation it takes to write from this sheltered place. We do live in secluded spot where outdoor sounds consist of the babble of creeks and wind on the ridges and an occasional jet descending into Roanoke.

But inside, to be honest, this is rarely a desert island of writerly tranquility. In this room where I would join word to word rumbles a train station of clanging ideas, a raucous airport of criss-crossing trails in the sky of imagination, a corporation switchboard of neglected phone calls, and a stratified desk of white noise.

Bank statements half-reconciled shout to be resolved; packages plead for mailers and addresses; ignored receipts multiply like rabbits. And hey, look at that browser page–what a great topic for a future blog post. I’ll just make a few notes and…

The phone rings. The wife returns from town. And oh dread! I run the risk of losing hold of the thread I followed with such passion three minutes ago at the shore where desert island meets inner metropolis. I have to do better at organizing my domain.

  • Clean off the desk of visible distractions.
  • Let the phone ring and turn off the answering machine; if it’s important they’ll call back.

(Yes, dear, I’m in the middle of making a list…)

  • Set a timer and only get up to stretch. Return to center. Prohibit mental intruders. Reward yourself if you succeed.
  • Keep a clear focus on the prize; know what it is, what it will take to get there, steel yourself.

(Yes, I’m coming. Be just a minute…)

  • Find and stick with a consistent organization method that keeps me from having to reproduce steps.
  • Ask for help when others can do something more efficiently and expertly than I can.

(No I’m not ignoring you. I’m just concentrating…)

  • Keep a checklist of tasks completed to let me see I have made progress.
  • Take out the screens and clean the windows in my junky room that I should be ashamed of
  • Vacuum the rugs, bathroom and kitchen floors (can’t I see the dog-hair tumbleweeds? Am I blind or just a slob?)
  • Throw out those empty boxes from the new addition that started out being the ANNex but has recently morphed into the FREDex.
  • Sweep the front walk and dust off the porch furniture before company comes this afternoon for dinner.

Oh never mind. Paradise lost. How is that possible here on this tranquil desert island? Did I mention that I am not the only person marooned here, and that instead of palm trees, the beaches are infested thick as Kudzu with the dreaded invasive Honey-do vine?

This little tale appeared in the Roanoke Star-Sentinel on 13 December 07.
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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Two bad things about writing early in the morning (for me anyway)…
    1) I can’t write early in the morning
    2)When I leave a grammatically incorrect post (or worse, an incomprehensible post), I feel that I have just littered in someone’s blogspace.

    Is that B-littering?? Have I blittered?

  2. There ARE more distractions at home than in a noisy cafe where you are not the one who has to wash the dirty dishes. It’s quiet here too, but I can too easily see all my undone projects. I would like to see my desk more often. It’s covered with stacks of paper. I thought they told us this computer life would lessen the need for the stuff.

    Also, when working at home most everyone things that means you are available. Some people go to the office to get a vacation from home.

  3. Great post. Very witty! You make it all too obvious why it’s so difficult to get anything of substance accomplished if you have a home and family and don’t live in a garrett.