“Abbey Unplugged: Finding Inspiration Out-of-Doors, Despite the Blistery, Bone-Chilling Wintery Weather”


This stunning panoramic photograph of sleepy Mystic, CT (with moi as interruption) was taken by the one and only Joachim Civico.

We’ve all heard the Virginia Woolf quote, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”  Money, unfortunately, is a must, and the room bit seems essential, too, but these days, I wonder if some unplugged time in nature is required, as well?

Virginia’s “room of her own” didn’t feature two chirping cell phones, or Facebook updates, or Twitter feeds, or Spotify tracks, or daily Groupons, or Gilt mailers, or those damn folks at Baublebar who insist on presenting new, affordable jewels every single day. She didn’t have a fresh episode of Downton Abbey waiting for her on the DVR in the other room. She didn’t even have the Keurig coffee maker making eye contact from the kitchen. If she wanted some coffee it was probably a bit more of a hassle, maybe a task that would pull her away from her work juuust long enough that it wasn’t worth it. In my contemporary writer world, it’s always worth it. It’ll just take a second. There. Just as you were reading this, another Keurig cup got its wings. Technology is beautiful!


I’m not one to knock modern luxury or convenience, but I must admit it’s taking a creative toll — especially during these frigid months when we writerly hermit-types are already susceptible to feeling cooped up.

Here’s the rub: When I have nervous, unproductive energy in the autumn, spring, or summer, I step outside and stretch for a bit. Take a walk. Ride my bike. Do some Pilates in the park. Go on a run. (Okay, okay. That last one’s a big ole lie, but the others are true. Imagine that! Me! Running! Fiction is fun.)

But now, frozen in a Midwestern mid-winter, I find myself remaining at my desk for a cramped, unfulfilling “virtual getaway,” a “break” from writing that provides no break for my eyes, or back, or hands, or, most importantly, mind. These “breaks” allow no sense of quiet that my tri-seasonal jaunts ensure. They fail to create the space for the little creative thoughts to germinate, which is really what creative thoughts do best when a writer is alone, surrounded by the kind of wondrous living things that cannot speak back.

In the spirit of full disclosure, these “breaks” generally consist of perusing bookmarked websites of the most random variety. But I’ve found the topic really doesn’t matter, anyway. Whether they feature high-brow writing or low-cost hair products, they provide no escape, no inspiration, no respite. “Virtual getaways,” I’ve found, fuel empty curiosities that provide little value to any real aspect of the creative life. Had this 2013 era demanded I call a local librarian and ask her to look up the information I’ve searched this past week, I’d be too embarrassed to attempt to dial. This is wasteful, poppycock behavior and it must be banned from the writing work day! Imagine troubling a librarian with this nonsense….

“What ever happened to Punky Brewster’s Soleil Moon Frye? Where the hell has she been?”
“How long would it take me to drive from Columbus to Portland? Are there Waffle Houses along the way?”
“Can Pinterest tell me how to get magenta lipstick off of a cream cashmere sweater?”
“Maybe Amazon’s ‘look inside!’ feature will allow me to reread the part of that story I liked best….”
“Are those guys in Mumford & Sons related?”
“Where can I find green tea that tastes good? Does that exist?”
“How many more days, hours, and minutes until Detroit Tigers’ Opening Day?”
“What’s the best course of action if a bottle of wine freezes in your trunk? What if you really like the wine? What if you’re really thirsty?”

You get the idea. Finally, after a week of snowglobe-worthy weather that had me gleefully gazing out the window, but resistent to step out to grab the mail, I decided it was high time I Googled the only thing worth Googling when a writer senses she needs to be pushed into the wilderness, for her own good, despite the windchill.

(I Googled Thoreau.) Here’s what I found:

“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. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

Thank you, H.D.T. I needed that. So, after weathering my dangerous nature deficit, I left all pluggable items at my desk, packed on the proper clothes, and ventured out. Moral of this strange non-story? When in doubt, friends, go outside. If you’re anything like me, it’ll be as good for your book as it is for your soul.


I realize now, while posting this, I am unabashedly endorsing three global brands in this photograph: The Ohio State University, The Olympics, and Starbucks. I didn’t intend to be so commercial, but, in all honesty, I do like these things. What the hell. Feel free to send me free stuff, OSU, Olympics, and ‘bucks. I’ll wear them proudly. Sell out, shmell out. #freestuffisnice


When the Midwest gives you snow, make angels. <3



Please feel free to share your thoughts here! xo
  1. Big Sister says:

    Yes! There is something about being outside that really replenishes, but in this cold, I need my dog to drag me out. Not so sure about Ohio State…

    • abbeycleland says:

      Thanks for reading, “Big Sister!” We’d like to welcome a dog to our little family in the not-so-distant future. When it’s time, I’ll do an entry on how owning a dog is good for a writer, and I’ll interview you as a reference. In the meantime, big thanks for reading. =)

  2. Diane Lopez says:

    Remember….you ALWAYS have a quiet corner here at 11252 East Stradling Avenue…..AND you can look out the window at palm trees for inspiration! No snow attire required! Starbucks just down the road and your Ohio State hat in the closet! Just sayin’!

    • abbeycleland says:

      Di: You’re so sweet, and your stunning, sprawling, cozy casa would be the perfect writers’ retreat. No one else could put up with our kind with such grace and patience, either — I’m sure of it. This has got me thinking. Maybe when your darling son can’t join, I’ll bring a gal pal from Book Island! <3

  3. Lyndsay says:

    Hope those were Pi Phi angels! 🙂 hehe

  4. Chris says:

    Abbey –

    You are a wonderfully talented individual. I love everything that you’ve done so far in your career. I can not wait for more!


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