*You ought to read “The Lillian Smith Center Residency, Part One” first.
Now that I have had some time to reflect on being at the Lillian Smith Center, the task of describing its benefits comes a little easier. While I learned the hard way not to sprint out the gate creatively, because it would near-to-burn me out halfway through, the quiet and solitude did allow for those long days of work. Very seldom do any of us get a whole day, from the time we get out of bed until the time we go to bed that night, with no obligations or distractions. Even the TV with its multitude of channels and programs can allow a writer or an artist not to work when we ought to be. Thankfully, the WiFi connection was in the Center’s common room, so there also wasn’t the opportunity for internet brain-drain unless I wanted to walk down the road a little way and have that. Having a residency up there in those shady mountains was a God-send, being away from responsibilities and obligations, away from distractions, even away from local news, yard work, and other aspects of being at home that may not even be apparent as distractions.
In addition to providing a nice little cottage with all of the amenities I needed — a kitchen fully stocked with pots and pans and dishes, comfortable furniture, a great porch to sit on, plenty of space for walks, a WiFi connection — Nancy and Robert Fichter were excellent hosts. Robert gave several short tours of the hiking trails and other parts of the Smith family property nearby. Nancy was the gracious Southern hostess, always with a smile, making sure I had everything I needed.
Now in my second week back home, the benefits are becoming clearer as I describe the work I got done to various people who are asking how it went. I estimate that I wrote somewhere in the neighborhood of 25,000 – 30,000 words in those first five or six days, with another 5,000 or so coming in the latter week, mainly because I did more revising, fact-checking, and reading as time went on. Coming home, I had a lengthy article on four August Wilson plays, a draft of an article on Rodney Jones’ poetry, and an article on how I teach creative writing using community partnerships, as well as that big 94,000-word first draft of You Can’t Know Where You’re Going. The enlivened feeling of heading home to see my wife and kids, who I missed very much, well rested and with plenty to show for the time meant a lot to a working writer who will return to teaching soon enough . . .