Writing Tips From The Roach Motel

Google maps assured me that the motel on my laptop screen was two minutes' walk from the beach and three minutes from my conference site. I was traveling to beachside Florida to chair a conference discussion panel, and, lucky me, even at the height of spring-break season, this place had lots of availability.

I arrived at nighttime. Even in the dark, I could tell that my motel's website had been more photo shop than reality.

After she helped me find and unlock my room, a friend of mine (who, of course, had booked the more expensive brand-name conference place) said, “I’ll leave my cell phone on all night. Call me immediately if you …”

She never finished her sentence, but I certainly did—and then some.

All night, as I tossed and turned under that loud, wall-unit air conditioner, I imagined entire busloads of thieves unloading outside my motel window. Any minute now, a serial killer would loom over my bed while underneath my mattress, an entire colony of bed bugs was just itching to hitch a ride in my suitcase.  

 I’m not a picky or nervous traveler. But that night, you could have scripted a horror movie from the madness that flashed through my insomniac brain.

Just after sunrise, I got up and went for a walk until the motel office opened up and I could demand a refund, excuse myself from the conference panel, and fly back to Boston and my safe, clean (ish) house.    

After a brutal New England winter, I had forgotten what a sunny, T-shirt morning actually felt like. I stood to watch an early-morning  yoga class on the beach. On the promenade, I bumped into a friend, also in town for our conference, also out for her morning run. 

When I got back to my crime-and-bug-infested room, I spotted a little patio table that just begged for a morning coffee where I wouldn’t need mittens or a parka. Breakfast led to a spontaneous and long writing session and, by the time the motel-office opened, my bugs and boogie men had all departed and I had settled in to stay. 

For that week I wrote. I went to a few conference sessions. I walked the beach and enjoyed conversations with people from all over the U.S.  

Yes, the motel bathroom tiles were cracked and rimed with black mildew, the shower door wobbled, and I had to wear flip-flops when I crossed to the bed. But the bed was comfy and, rather than plotting a break-in, my motel neighbors were too busy with beach balls and strollers to notice or care about the middle-aged woman writing outside her room.

 

  Oh, yes. There are some writing lessons here:

 

1. Face down your own fears : In writing and in life, how often have we let our fears eclipse our common sense and stall our progress? Sure, your short story may get rejected. Or a reviewer or reader may pan your book. But there will also be those who will love it. You won’t know until you shush your (often unfounded) fears and push on.   

2. Keep looking until you find the good: Nothing (lousy draft, rejected manuscript) is ever as bad as it first appears. Go back and take a closer look.  Look past the problems to find the bright spots.

3. Stall the pity party: Remember that rattling motel air conditioner? Ten minutes standing on the kitchen chair and a few quick adjustments got the ceiling fan working again, so my noisy a/c could be permanently switched off and I could get some sleep. So throw yourself a writer’s pity party--sure,  but then dust yourself off and fix whatever’s broken or holding you back.  

4. Go with the flow: I had planned to use my Florida trip to finalize a proposal package for my non-fiction book in progress. So who knew that I’d use my little patio table to handwrite the first chapters of a new novel—in the sunshine?   

5. Stand back and see the big picture: Mildew aside, there are families all over America who would have loved my tatty motel room—or any dry room with running water. A stalled novel? A shoddy or no literary agent? In the grand scheme of things, these are small and good problems to have. Learn and practice gratitude.

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About the Author

An Irish native, Aine Greaney has lived in the U.S. for 26 years, currently on the North Shore of Boston. As well as her four published books, she has placed personal essays in Salon.com, The Boston Globe Magazine, Forbes, The Daily Muse, Writers Digest and Books by Women. Her how-to writing book, Writer with a Day Job, was released by Writers Digest Books in 2011. As well as writing, she is the communications director for a local non-profit, and she teaches and presents on creative writing at schools, universities and arts centers. Her author website: www.ainegreaney.com.

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Craft Advice

Topics:

Fiction

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