Michaeline: Writer’s Fantasy #1: The Lockdown Inn

A 1920s stylish woman with a piece of paper on her desk mat, and the tip of a pen between her lipsticked lips.

An empty hotel room, a non-leaky pen, and thou, my precious manuscript! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Writers and hotels just seem to go together, both fictionally and in real life. The dad in Stephen King’s The Shining just wanted to get away from everything for a winter and WRITE. (It turned out horribly.) Maya Angelou (in an interview with The Paris Review – blurbed by google but with a broken link) said she’d rent a hotel room for a few months, leave home at six, and then write in the room (which had amenities such as a bible, a bath, a thesaurus and a dictionary, according to a Daily Beast article).

It’s alleged that Agatha Christie (who Kay Keppler wrote about on Thursday) wrote Murder on the Orient Express in Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul. (Istanbul is the southern terminal of the railroad.) The hotel is also part museum, and has an Agatha Christie Room with antique furniture and Christie’s books AND the Agatha Restaurant, a smart-casual dining room.  

Scores of businesses offer writers the opportunities to retreat to a cabin in the woods, or on the beach, or in the middle of a city, to spend a weekend writing and talking with their fellow writers.

I thought Damon Knight (in his Creating Short Fiction) talked about a writer who would meditate on a story for three months then go to a hotel room and type for 30 hours straight . . . but it turned out I misremembered. I bought the book again, but this time the digital version so I could search it, and it seems it wasn’t a cheap motel, but a *specially designed cubicle, smaller than a telephone booth*. I suppose a modern hotel room would have too many distractions for that kind of writer (the bath, the Gideon bible, the cable TV and wifi).

Of course, in this Time of Corona, germophobes like me are not going to a hotel to write. I keep remembering articles that say coronaviruses survive on plastic surfaces for up to 72 hours, wood for four days, and glass for five days. Ugh.

But still, it’s fun to dream.

Heian Japanese lady peeking from under a curtain, with her manuscripts on the floor

Sei Shonagon was writing in Japan around the year 1000 — but didn’t have the luxury of an inn. She had to make do with the palace. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

My friend sent me a fun article about a Japanese inn that offers a writer’s service for real writers or for those who just want to cosplay. The staff calls themselves the Editing Department, you can book a service that holds the key to your hotel safe so you can lock your phone inside, or you can pay extra to have actors pretending to be your secret lover and your spouse run into each other – to get that olde-timey dramatic writer experience! (Debt collectors also available.)

The heroine of the article, ChieVampire, goes to get some real work done, and it’s entertaining to follow her evening and morning at the traditional hotel. The Homeikan in Tokyo has quite a few entertaining programs in their three historic buildings, and when a vaccine’s been discovered, I want to go and try out the Monster Event* or the Literary Retreat Plan. It does seem like a quite reasonable price, and I’ll be sure to pack my longest extension cord and pocket wi-fi.

On this longing note of nostalgia and yearning, have you been on a dream retreat, or do you have one that you’d like to go to some day? (-: I know Kay’s talked about creating her own writing retreat.

*I don’t know an easy way to get this link in English. If you cut and paste 鳳明館幽霊 (Homeikan ghosts) into Google, look for the “jibunmedia.publishers” link, and click on translate this page. 

12 thoughts on “Michaeline: Writer’s Fantasy #1: The Lockdown Inn

  1. Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants, spoke at Oberlin College near me a few years ago. When she was trying to finish the book, she had her husband convert their walk-in closet to a writing room. It had no windows and was plastered with vintage pictures from old circuses. She needed the lack of distractions.

    I write best in my computer room. It’s a 9.5′ x 11′ room with two windows. The upper half is lined with bookcases on three walls and has counters along both sides with drawers and cabinets underneath. It’s not an especially pretty space but it’s terrific for writing.

    • I think I’d be fine in a small room. When I fall into the flow, it’s total tunnel vision, and it’s me and the computer screen; that’s it. So, as long as I have noise-cancelling headphones on (or just rain noises through earbuds), it doesn’t seem to matter to me much where I write. The thing I seem to need is a clear slate of a couple of hours. (-: And no chores nagging to be done!

  2. I have done several writing retreats, some with friends and some by myself. The most productive was a week in a flat in London (through Airbnb). I’d intended to go to England with my mom to look at old Georgian-era estates, but she wasn’t able to go and I already had the plane tickets, so I opted for a week-long retreat instead. I wrote about 25K words that week, including completing the short-story giveaway prequel to my first book and plotting out the missing second half of my novel. I drank tea, ate scones with jam and cream, and worked all sorts of funky hours (never quite getting on London time, but definitely not on Arizona time, either…I think I was somewhere in Newfoundland). What was nice being so far ahead of the family time-wise is I could wake, run through emails from the night before, work for most of the day, then at the end of MY day, connect with them at the beginning of theirs. And because most of my friends/acquaintances were on a similar time zone as the fam, I wouldn’t get interruptions from them, either. I’ve told my husband that when Coronavirus settles down and people start traveling again, I want to do a repeat of that trip, only this time I think I want to be not quite in the center of London.

    When I got to the final editing stages of my first book, I took a room at the local hotel for a weekend so I could read through the whole thing without any breaks or interruptions (which occur often in my world — two kids, pets, hubs who travels). That was exceedingly helpful and I will do it again for sure when I get to the next book.

    Julia Quinn, who lives in Seattle, does solo writing retreats at her vacation place in Mexico a few times a year in order to work without distraction. There’s a lot of benefit to it, especially for distractable people like me.

    While I have an office in our house that is just for me (it’s the “in-law bedroom,” complete with a bathroom), I keep teasing my husband about letting me build a “she-shack” in the backyard so I can distance myself even further from the fam. Of course, that’s not going to happen. Fortunately, I have a lovely door sign courtesy Jeanne that says “She-Demon at Work” and the fam is pretty good about respecting it. Or, sometimes they just text me. LOL.

    • That sounds lovely! I hope they find a very workable vaccine soon so you can do the trip again!

      The biggest plus I see to a hotel room is just what you mention: no distractions. No laundry to be done, no dinner to be made, no “just one more thing before I sit down to write”. Just the writing and the researching.

  3. I keep dreaming about a writers retreat, but since the quarantine, that’s been confined to looking at available property at realtor.com. I’m certainly not going anywhere to view anything, and who would want to a) travel b) share a house and even maybe c) a bathroom with anyone not their immediate family? So it’s just not in the cards, and maybe never will be. In the meantime, I can dream:

    Here’s a fancy house in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Keep looking until you get to the purple and gold bathroom. You will not be disappointed.

    Another one in Fond du Lac. Who were those moguls in Fond du Lac at the turn of the last century who could afford to build these incredible houses?

    Or maybe a motel in northern California would be better?

    Still dreamin’.

    • All of those look amazing! I will happily volunteer to attend your first writers’ retreat.

      (Did you notice that both of the Wisconsin houses had foosball tables? What’s a writer’s retreat without a way to blow off a little steam playing foosball?)

      • I know, right? Plus that one house had that big game room in the attic with a pool table. I think they’d have to leave that behind. How on earth would you move a pool table out of the attic? Although I guess they got it up there…

        • There’s a Cape Cod house down the street from me (with three garages–my husband says it’s his dream house) that’s so small it has a spiral staircase to get to the second floor. They had to bring their box springs in through the second story windows.

          So I’m thinking–a crane.

          (If you buy it, be sure to write it into the contract that they have to leave the pool table and the foosball table.)

        • We once lived in a house with a player piano in the basement. It was a fairly new house, so they put the player piano in before they put in the stairs . . . when it was time to move, they didn’t want to rip out and rebuild the stairs . . . . I spent many happy hours plunking on that out-of-tune thing (-:.

    • Oh my goodness! All three look great. I think I like the first one best — the public spaces encourage sharing, but they are closed in and cozy. It just looks more bookish. A lot of distractions in the second house — weights, billiards/foosball. (LOL, is foosball a requirement for Wisconsin mansions? Good requirement!) The hotel is so gorgeous, but the common spaces seem to be mostly outdoors. Perfect for writers who know what they want to get done and just do it, but not for writers who need to bounce ideas off of a living human.

      It’s just so fun to imagine how one would use these spaces! There was a house going around on Twitter recently that used to be the sheriff’s office, IIRC. A home, plus eight cells and a holding tank (again, IIRC). Some writers thought it might be a good retreat — lock ’em up until they finish their word count! Sounds good in theory . . . .

  4. Pingback: Jeanne: The Room Where It Happens – Eight Ladies Writing

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