Why This 2016 Writer is Going to the Woods

When Henry David Thoreau went to the woods by Walden Pond in Concord, Mass. in 1845, he had his own, somewhat convoluted, reasons for doing so:


“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden

One hundred seventy-one years later, my reasons for going to the woods are much simpler and clear cut:

I need to finish a book, and I need utter quiet and solitude in order to do it. Bluntly put, I need to get the hell away from all of humanity (to the extent that I can) for a month. I need to do this so I can see exactly how deeply I’m capable of writing when not subjected to the noise and vicissitudes of modern life.

art-of-peace-01-web1I am halfway through my next book—a personal and very difficult to write memoir—and while the writing has been going relatively well, I need three weeks to a month of uninterrupted writing time.

This, combined with a strict media diet (no commercial television, limited movies, limited music, nothing but a few great books and novels: War and Peace; The Art of PeaceA Farewell to Arms; LolitaFirst Love), and an intense (Navy SEAL intense enough for you?) diet and exercise regimen, will enable me to finish the book.

“Now and again, it is necessary to seclude yourself among deep mountains and hidden valleys to restore your link to the source of life.” — Morihei Ueshiba, The Art of Peace

My plan is to come down from the Vermont mountains in a month with the completed first draft of a book, a tanner and buffer body, and a more peaceful mind.

exterior-summer400Circumstances have aligned giving me the ability to do this. First, my best friend Jason Scott went to Japan, leaving me with his fine AWD automobile for the next month. Then, my other best friends Brian and Maia offered me the use of their vacation house high in the Green Mountains—with no visitors whatsoever.

I’m bringing the current manuscript of the book, pencils, notebooks, my Macbook Air, my printer, my favorite typewriter (a Royal Quiet Deluxe), and a ream of paper, along with my camera and a video camera, because I plan on documenting what it is to go into seclusion to write in 2016—to show myself writing, tanning, working out, cooking, reading, and in general doing all of the things a writer does when in solitude finishing a book.

I may or may not write about the experience when I return. Such an entry will probably take the form of a completed video about my sojourn.

typewriter-field1This is something that I and just about all writers fantasize about doing: retreating into the wilds to do nothing but write. My sense is that there are very few of us with the self-discipline necessary to make the tenure a productive one. I’m confident that I’m one of these writers. We’ll see.

Unlike Thoreau, I have window screens, fewer bugs, an automobile, and a hot tub to make my sojourn slightly more comfortable.

I only hope the writing goes well.

Wish me luck.

—Chris Orcutt

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By Chris Orcutt

Writer — The Dakota Stevens Mystery Series, Short fiction, Plays — Editor & Speechwriter for Hire — Avid Golfer, Chess Player & Awesome Wood-Splitter — Twitter: @chrisorcutt

Comments (2)

  1. Diana Singer May 29, 2016 at 1:37 am

    Best wishes for a thoughtful return to nature to accomplish your goals. I think you will actually enjoy the solitude and be able to achieve not only finishing your book but finding your “center” once again and come back rested and refreshed.

    • Chris Orcutt May 29, 2016 at 10:38 pm

      I think you’re right, Diana. To that end, I’ve decided to detox from all TV and movies during my sojourn. Thank you so much for reading and for your thoughtful comment. :) —Chris