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January, 2008

Greek Ghosts

Your Writing Paradise
Earthly pursuits
By  Helen Dunn Frame

Write, think, sleep or breathe? MY RETREAT is for you! 90 miles from NY City. Shared cottages/private units. Clean, quiet, and reasonable . . .
No prices were given, only that readers of the particular newsletter in which the ad appeared could receive a 10% discount. If you attempt to write with your computer perched on the corner of the kitchen table, a spouse cooking a meal, and three kids, a dog, and two cats running around, this might really appeal to you no matter what the cost.
When I moved to Costa Rica, I envisioned writing on a terrace with a view of a tropical garden. Enter reality. The nearest electrical plug isn't grounded. It would take a very long extension cord to connect to the much-needed Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS). Unhooking the peripherals is a pain. The laptop's battery would last about two hours at best if I eschewed electricity, and the screen would be less bright.
Basically, my ivory tower in Paradise nestles in a bedroom painted blue about the same size as the space I occupied in Dallas, Texas. It contains the same furniture, file cabinets, reference books, and supplies in easy reach. Two windows let in natural light, and the view includes lovely flowers and my front gate where I see occasional passers-by. I read hard copies of manuscripts, newsletters, and other materials outside. From my roost on the terrace, I gaze upon various plants, tropical flowers, and tall, thick flowering bushes that screen the view of the house and people next door.
While "working" in shorts and a T-shirt – some of my neighbours fail to understand I'm not just reading when they stop at the gate to chat in Spanish – I sip an iced drink or coffee. With temperatures hovering in the seventies, the dogs and I only rush inside when a downpour, thunder, and lighting begin, and the wind blows a fine mist similar to the watering system in a super market's produce section.
Back in the remote past, I set up a manual typewriter on the very same walnut desk I still own in the corner by the window of the only bedroom. My dream was to own an electric typewriter with memory. While I never bought the coveted IBM Selectric™, I finally dusted off and sold the other brand electric before I moved to Central America.
If your home can't accommodate an office, negotiate a place in a room where you can shut – better yet, lock – the hordes out. Set up some rules with your roommates about granting privacy. So often family and friends don't consider it work because you are doing it from your home – at least until checks pour in. Or if you are allegedly retired in the tropics like me, they picture you sipping a rum drink in a hammock and reading novels that someone else penned.
If your personality requires you to write a set number of hours a day, even if it is only a couple after your day job, adhere to your routine. Some writers work at the crack of dark, others in the midnight hours. Being flexible, one day I might binge, or just write or edit for a couple of hours. The next two days I may be gallivanting. The key is not to beat yourself if you are unable to get everything on the "to do list" completed as planned. Maòana!
How did we get programmed to answer the bell no matter what we are doing? Discipline yourself to let the answering machine take phone calls, especially if you have limited hours to write. Return those calls when you have time to talk and really listen.
You can still enjoy a beverage even if you only look out on a parking lot, paved street, or a balcony with a few potted plants (as I did in Dallas). Maybe your windows overlook water. I also recall that one frequently published author dictated stories every day to a secretary while having breakfast in bed. The point is obvious: you can make your personal space and routine Your Paradise wherever you create.
If you still need a change of venue on occasion, hire a retreat like the one above for your busman's holiday. I essentially did that when I spent a week on the island of Leros in Greece and started manually drafting Greek Ghosts. If you allow them, the muses will find you no matter where you discover Paradise.
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Helen Dunn Frame. A Syracuse University journalism school graduate, published in major newspapers, magazines and trade publications in the United States, England, and Germany. Her writing skills and love of travel led her to write her mystery novel Greek Ghosts. Email: Web site:

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Upon the trails we’ve known;
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But just a stepping stone.

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Penned to the page
Waiting for us to admire.
It is only a lonely thought
Caught by tears on fire.

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A quiet rhyme upon a page
Is what a poet gives;
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As though you’re hanging drapes;
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Like wild summer grapes.

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To getting paid for it
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