As you may know, I’m leaving home to finish my book. Part of me feels terribly selfish about doing this. It is a fear that says I’m not doing my part to help my family move along this timeline of life that we all hack our way through every day in America. That I’m letting them down by going off to play in the woods with the muses. And for what? Nothing. To scratch a creative itch. This isn’t about money or security. It’s about nothing. And yes, I realize that the machine will be here when I return – ready to swallow me up and put me under the trance once again. Rendering this retreat moot. A waste of time. This particular fear is the thing that doesn’t want me to write at all. It’s been sitting on my shoulder for decades giving me reasons not to give any attention to the voices in my head. Calling all of it folly and reminding me that I need to get back to work. That I’m running late. That the boss will fire me if I’m not sitting straight up in my chair. That no matter what I write, no matter how great the story is, that I do not possess the talent to tell it – and so I’ll end up wasting everyone’s time and embarrassing myself in the process. I have to bind and gag this demon in order to do this thing.

There’s also a fear that I’ll get up there and fall in love. That nothing will ever be the same afterward. That somehow there will be this awakening inside of me that will make it hard to come back and conform to the limitations of the machine. That my children won’t even recognize me afterward. I do not fear this demon as much as respect it. I’m well aware that it could be the first demon dressed in nicer clothes. So I push this demon into the corner and tell it to keep its mouth shut. It fears me more than I fear it.

Finally there’s the excitement of stepping onto a narrow footpath that leads into a fragrant forest. The great unknown. A chance explore places I can only dream about now. The rush of the darkness. Just me and a notebook. And my old dog. This is what I’m focused most on – the journey into the woods.



Jim Mitchem – (Don’t worry, I am doing this. I’m just trying to articulate how fear moves around in my mind. It’s a clever bastard.)

Ninety Five
Writing Retreat, Day Three

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.